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June 23, 2012 8:36 AM   Subscribe

Clearing the Bar Is the Easy Part: [NYTimes] "Mark Hollis is a pole-vaulter, and while he and his competitors here feel significant pressure as they compete for a place on the Olympic team, the anxiety they experience just trying to get their equipment to meets is sometimes even more excruciating."
posted by Fizz (35 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
It can be very similar in the world of music, especially touring and such. Just trying to get your equipment to the gig, on and off of airplanes, trains, buses, taxis, up and down streets... can be excruciating.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:48 AM on June 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


What I don't get is that they call ahead to make sure that it is acceptable and then someone low on the rung doesn't get the message and some how has enough power to disrupt and ruin things.
posted by Fizz at 8:51 AM on June 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Wow, I never realized that these fancy sticks had to be transported anywhere. Kinda assumed they were totally standardized.

Do pole-vaulter pimp their poles? Maybe have autographs and stickers on them?
posted by Foci for Analysis at 8:51 AM on June 23, 2012


Wow, I never realized that these fancy sticks had to be transported anywhere. Kinda assumed they were totally standardized.

I'm not sure how this is any different from any other sport. Your gear becomes an extension of your own athleticism. You wouldn't use another person's shoes to run a marathon. You're going to use something that is familiar, tested, & worked in.
posted by Fizz at 8:55 AM on June 23, 2012


There’s only one airline that has a system in place, and that’s Southwest

This seems to be a common refrain!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:57 AM on June 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


Now I'm attempting to think of a sport where gear/equipment is standardized.
posted by Fizz at 8:57 AM on June 23, 2012


We fencers have it relatively easy. All we have to do is claim it's golf clubs, and everything sails through. The pole vaulters would probably be okay if they said it was skis.

Fencers have many of the same problems for the most part, however. And some others: You have to be careful to say "sports equipment" rather than "swords," of course, and even disassembled you can't carry on the stuff (even though it's basically just conductive sticks and not sharp). But it's not uncommon to arrive at the airport having called ahead and confirmed, only to get a different story from the ticket agent.

Some people ship their gear FedEx ahead of time. Mostly, I just put my sabres in the checked bag, put everything else (mask, glove, electric cords, electric jacket, protective uniform, special shoes, chest protector, etc.) in my carry-on, and go through security and deal with the questions. I can buy sabres when I get to the competition if I have to, or borrow them.
posted by Peach at 9:02 AM on June 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Fizz: One-design sailing.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:03 AM on June 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


*Wedges in a Colour of Spring joke.*
posted by arcticseal at 9:38 AM on June 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm gonna vote for surfboards as being the most difficult sports equipment to travel with. For those of us who've traveled with multiple boards to the other side of the earth (or not even that far) to compete (or just free surf), you really have to practically armor the boards. Its an enormous hassle and I'd guess damage is 50/50 - at least that's been my record. Oh, and its not like just picking up a stock board at the destination will cut it if all you're used to riding is your group of handmade, specifically tailored boards.
posted by blaneyphoto at 9:55 AM on June 23, 2012


In practice though, there are many, many tunable things on a one-design and you'd never race with a boat other than your own.
posted by atrazine at 10:04 AM on June 23, 2012


Peach really covered the bases with fencing. I used to wonder why fencers would often keep equipment in these hard golf cases...and then I went flying to a tournament across the country. Golf clubs are explicitly approved for checking in, so everything goes really smoothly.

The point about "sports equipment" rather than "swords" is also completely true.
posted by subversiveasset at 10:18 AM on June 23, 2012


But think how easily a pole-vaulting terrorist could evade airport security, given a running start!
posted by BitterOldPunk at 10:30 AM on June 23, 2012 [9 favorites]


This is why there are no hurdles in security, it only encourages them.
posted by arcticseal at 10:44 AM on June 23, 2012 [5 favorites]


Mark Hollis is a singer.
posted by kenko at 10:50 AM on June 23, 2012


Flying with bicycles: If you pack your mostly assembled bike in a single case, it is a bicycle, and you have to pay from $100 to $500 extra depending on the airline.

If you disassemble it a lot more, so that you have a case with a bike frame and a bag full of bike parts then you don't have to pay extra.

Except on Southwest, who are the only airline I know that is staffed and run by adults.
posted by Ayn Rand and God at 10:53 AM on June 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


This is why Nascar stopped having races in Japan. Do you have any idea how hard it is to check a Ford Fusion?
posted by mr_crash_davis at 11:04 AM on June 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


"This is why there are no hurdles in security"

There used to be.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 11:06 AM on June 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Sounds like a business opportunity. They also ship javelins!

I think the winter games present more of a shipping challenge, with the skis, bobsleighs, and biathlon rifles.
posted by ceribus peribus at 12:03 PM on June 23, 2012


I think the winter games present more of a shipping challenge, with the skis, bobsleighs, and biathlon rifles.
posted by ceribus peribus


I don't know - with skis, not only can you remove the bindings to make them more streamlined, but they're a pretty standard item to go on planes. Anything as big as a bobsled simply isn't going to be taken on a standard passenger aircraft, I bet - I'm sure those are shipped. And, firearms are so closely tracked on aircraft, that they're relatively easy items.
posted by blaneyphoto at 1:20 PM on June 23, 2012


kenko: "Mark Hollis is a singer."

*cough*
posted by arcticseal at 1:24 PM on June 23, 2012


Every time my dad goes fishing in Mexico, the airlines break one of his rods, his rod cases or both. How hard can it be to ship a 10ft tall fiberglass tube?!
posted by ApathyGirl at 1:58 PM on June 23, 2012


I imagine transport is a pretty big headache for the Equestrian team as well.
posted by the_artificer at 3:40 PM on June 23, 2012


I'm gonna vote for surfboards as being the most difficult sports equipment to travel with.

More difficult than vaulter's poles? How long is your surfboard?
posted by amorphatist at 4:02 PM on June 23, 2012


Actually I'm kind of surprised that FedEx or one of their competitors haven't jumped at the chance to be "the official shipper of the Olympics" with door-to-door fragile equipment delivery specially tailored to each event. If they can figure out the Panda Express then a few poles shouldn't be a problem.
posted by ceribus peribus at 4:59 PM on June 23, 2012


More difficult than vaulter's poles? How long is your surfboard?
posted by amorphatist


The boards I ride today average in the 10 foot range. In my competitive years, 6-8 feet. Shorter by quite a bit than the vaulters poles, but that's not the thing - its the fact that boards are almost two feet wide and are delicate fiberglass and foam. They're sculpted (yes, sculpted - not just cut by machine like the junk they build today) by hand. Oh, and then there's the wood laminate boards -none of these are easy to fix. Crush a rail, break off a nose, rip out a couple fins.... you might as well toss the whole board in the garbage because it'll never ride the same.

But I know nothing of vaulting poles. I'd think there would be some sort of Pelican Case for them or something equally indestructible. But maybe the simple issue is length.
posted by blaneyphoto at 6:36 PM on June 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


In weightlifting all the bars and bumpers are standardized, but if a meet is low-level you don't know what you're getting. You are wearing your own shoes and lifting belt. In strongman though half the challenge is showing up to the contest having likely never used the particular implements you're expected to lift. You do your best imitation at home (easier with some events than others) but it can be a crapshoot if you find out the organizer has the crappiest Atlas stones ever and they're falling apart as you pick them up.
posted by schroedinger at 6:41 PM on June 23, 2012


I'm gonna vote for surfboards as being the most difficult sports equipment to travel with.

i'd agree with that because of the potential for damage. a 17 foot pole is unusual enough that it probably has a lower incidence of damage because of the special attention it attracts. a surfboard, however, is more run of the mill and and a lot easier to throw.
posted by lester's sock puppet at 8:39 PM on June 23, 2012


As a TSA employee, I see pole-vaulters trying to smuggle their sports equipment onto the plane all the time, the better to avoid arcane baggage handling fees. Generally I don't care how they try to do it, but I'm just tired of making the same joke. "Is that a pole vault pole in your pants, or are you really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really happy to see me?"
posted by twoleftfeet at 9:16 PM on June 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


And I always thought their only job was getting over the pole - it really never occurred to me they'd be responsible for transporting the equipment, too.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 9:41 PM on June 23, 2012


I was going to make another cheap joke about this, but I've come to my senses and I'm not going to make that joke. I wouldn't touch it with a ten foot pole.
posted by twoleftfeet at 11:32 PM on June 23, 2012


Yesterday I saw a guy walking through the town centre, carrying one of those long, long sticks. I went over and asked 'Excuse me... Are you a pole vaulter?

He said 'No, I'm German. And how did you know my name was Walter?'
posted by Isn't in each artist (7) at 11:54 PM on June 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


United Airlines is a proud sponsor of the US Olympic Committee. You'd think that as part of their proud sponsoring, they'd have a process down for actually offering services for athletes.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:21 AM on June 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Looks like UA gives them a dedicated reservations line but not sure if there are reduced rates or special assistance.
posted by arcticseal at 7:12 AM on June 24, 2012


It can be very similar in the world of music, especially touring and such. Just trying to get your equipment to the gig, on and off of airplanes, trains, buses, taxis, up and down streets... can be excruciating.
"Rock music is mostly about moving big black boxes from one side of town to the other in the back of your car." - David Thomas, Pere Ubu
posted by dfan at 6:03 PM on June 24, 2012


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