Aug. 11, 2005
by Paul Merca
HELSINKI, Finland -- On the day before the biggest competition of former University of Washington track standout Brad Walker's career, the 2005 American indoor and outdoor pole vault champion relaxed here in Helsinki by designing a customized running shoe on a computer.
Surrounded by both of his parents, who flew from Spokane, Wash., along with University of Washington vault coach Pat Licari and agent Andy Stubbs, Walker took a reporter through the process of personalizing his own Nike Free 5.0 shoe, while talking about the season to date.
Merca: Tell us a little bit about the personalized vault shoe you are designing for Nike.
Walker: "6.16 (meters) is a personal goal of every pole vaulter (20-2 1/2) and so that's what I put on my shoe. 6.16 is what my focus will be for the next couple of years."
Merca: What were your thoughts about Tuesday's qualifying session, where you cleared 5.45 meters (17-10.5)?
Walker: "I didn't jump particularly well, but I did what I needed to do."
Merca: What affect did the windy conditions have on qualifying?
Walker: "Honestly, I've never jumped in winds that tricky before. You really couldn't adjust for any kind of wind, because it was consistently inconsistent. It's something you really can't practice for."
Merca:How have you adjusted to the nomadic lifestyle that has come with your first full professional season?
Walker: "This was my first full pro indoor and outdoor season (Walker completed his eligibility at the University of Washington winter 2004 by winning the NCAA indoor pole vault title). Within this last year, I've been to Brazil, Japan, and Europe a few times. You get used to traveling, and long flights, and what you have to do to prepare yourself for competition, including what you have to eat, your practice schedule, and what not, Once you have this under control, then you can go out and get the job done."
Merca: What's a typical travel schedule like?
Walker: "Usually we will travel on a Monday. Tuesday's a rest day, Wednesday's a shake-out day, then compete on Thursday (three days after flying). To jump 5.80 (19-0 1/4) coming off the plane to win Paris Golden League meet is pretty good."
Merca: I understand that you've been dealing with a heel injury these past couple of weeks. How has that affected your training for the World Championships?
Walker: "Actually, in the meet in Paris, I came down, and didn't get deep enough, and landed hard on my left heel. There's a bruise on the fat pad, and maybe a bit of a bone bruise. Obviously, you're not supposed to run or jump on your heel. It tightens up when you walk differently to compensate for it. It's not really a big deal. It hurts now, but it's something that everyone goes through. Brent George, my physical therapist in Seattle, has shown me a few different tape jobs to protect it and keep going in the right direction."
Merca: What are your expectations going into Thursday's pole vault final?
Walker: "I have one of the higher marks in the field, so that's going to be on the minds of a couple of people. Everyone in this field is capable of jumping very high. The best man's going to win. That's what it's gonna come down to."
Merca: It seems to me that even though you are in direct competition with each other, pole vaulters are a very tight group. What do you think is the reason for that?
Walker: "It takes a certain type of personality to really understand the pole vault. It's something most people don't understand unless you actually do it. Generally, that person knows what it's like to vault, and we generally get along. It's the most fun event in track and field, because we get to do some things that no one else gets to do."