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Pole vaulting in the Outback

Saturday, 10 June 2017 | Athletics Australia



When there’s not much infrastructure in the outback, sometimes you have to be a little resourceful.

So when 2001 world pole vault champion Dmitri Markov went to teach pole vault and athletics on Groote Eylandt, a small remote Indigenous community in the Gulf of Carpentaria, he had to be a little inventive in terms of equipment.

“We found these bamboo sticks nearby and we thought – we might be able to make this work,” Markov said.

Markov, along with the ‘Athletics For The Outback’ team, fashioned a make-shift box next to the mat and used the bamboo sticks as a pole.

“The kids were great, it was an amazing experience,” Markov said.

Athletics Australia's ‘Athletics For The Outback’ reaches Indigenous Australians in towns and municipalities throughout Australia introducing in-school coaching clinics, recreational running events and leadership and education initiatives.

Read: The History of Indigenous Athletes in Australia

With the encouragement of Markov, former Australian record holder in the pole vault, the schoolkids on Groote Eylandt tackled the jump with laughter and enthusiasm.

“It’s a very natural place, the kids don’t play any video games and aren’t stuck on the internet, they get out, get active and were ready to give it a go.”

“It’s a very different part of the world - a unique part of Australia. Their culture is very strong and they are a friendly community,”

GE Australia, program partner of the initiative have been on board to deliver the clinics that aim to encourage Indigenous children to live active lifestyles.

“I love the fact that the Athletics for the Outback is promoting healthy and active lifestyles, while at the same time encouraging Indigenous kids to aim high with their education,” Geoff Culbert, CEO of GE Australia and New Zealand said.

The trip to the Northern Territory coincided with National Reconciliation Week, Australia’s national week to celebrate and build on the respectful relationships shared by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians.

One of the key points of reconciliation is the coming together of cultures, of which Markov knows plenty about.

Migrating from Belarus in 1997, Markov settled into Australia and applied for citizenship in 1999. Once a full-fledged Australian, Markov quickly made his mark on the Australian athletics scene, breaking the then national record with 5.95m in Athens before winning the silver medal at the 1999 world championships in Seville with a leap of 5.90m.

At the 2001 world championships in Edmonton, Canada, Markov overcame a particularly nasty toe injury to clear 6.05m to win gold and set the championships record which still stands today.

In 2015, Markov’s son, Oleg was drafted to the Richmond Tigers in the AFL, beginning his career as a rebounding defender.

But for Dmitri, it’s his pole vault knowledge that comes most in handy when in the outback.

“The kids were great, and quite fascinated by it – the pole vault is something they never had seen or thought about before – I really hope it will get them interested to pursue it in the future.”

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