Politics junkies aren't the only ones obsessed with polls. US-based Greek athlete Ekaterini Stefanidi, who cleared 4.71m in her season-opener at the weekend, tells us about the only poles that anyone is really interested in.

Buy your pole

“I buy all of my poles from UCS, an athletics equipment company based out of Nevada. I love the poles and all the people I deal with in the company. I've been using their poles since I first went to Stanford University in 2008.

“Poles cost different amounts depending on size, but generally the standard prize for a pole costs around $500. I'm lucky in that UCS have been great in giving me some poles for free and the Greek Athletics Federation have also paid for some poles.”

Love your pole

“I own ten to 12 competition poles which I take to Europe with me, but I use more poles than that in training because [Stefanidi's coach] Nick Hysong keeps many more in the shed in the back of his house where we train.

“Poles do differ in length and softness. Most vaulters have one smaller pole which they feel comfortable on during the competition but then the other poles tend to be a standard length but all varying in softness. 

Ekaterini Stefanidi ()

"I don't talk to my poles... But I have talked to the bar!"

“All my poles, bar one, are 4.45m in length. Some girls might opt for 4.30m length pole or others 4.60m. I do have a favourite and a least favourite pole. However, my least favourite, which has a 20.6 flexibility is the one I got my PR with, so I might have to change my mind! My favourite pole has a 21.0 flex and is 4.30m in length. This is way easier to bend, but if I jumped on that pole, it would probably be two feet lower than my PR.

“Like any piece of equipment poles get old, but I have to say in 14 years as a vaulter, I've never broken a pole. Also, I sometimes jump on poles in training which are more than 20 years old, so they are very durable.

“Some people have asked me [whether] I talk to the pole and I have to say no, but I have talked to the bar! When I was younger my team-mates and I would talk and be nice to the bar as a joke. I’d never do that anymore – I’m not crazy! I would say I've had some pretty good bar luck, so maybe it worked.”

Fly your pole

“Transporting the poles – in a tube wrapped around with a long pole vault bag – via plane can be a huge pain. You have to pre-book them and they also have to be confirmed on your reservation. Star Alliance airlines tend to be very good in taking poles, though they are not cheap. For a European trip this can cost between 100-150 euros to transport and I’ve paid anywhere between 200-400 euros to transport them across the Atlantic.

“Thankfully, now that I am out of college my professional agent Karen [Locke] always books the poles on the flight. But in college, before I was a pro, I once remember taking about a week to fly from the US to Europe for the European Under-23 Championships [in Ostrava, where Stedanidi finished second] because one company no longer took the poles on board and then an interconnecting flight of another airline company wouldn't take them.          

“Sometimes my poles might not turn up at the airport. I remember once travelling back to San Francisco from Europe and it was like, okay, they are probably stuck in Germany. After about a month-and-a-half half later I found that they had been sitting at San Francisco Airport all that time.”

EXTRA! Read Ekaterini Stefanidi's five-point mental breakdown of the pole vault.