March 12, 2006
MOSCOW, Russia - Former University of Washington pole vaulter Brad Walker overcame a head injury an elite field to win the gold medal at the IAAF World Indoor Track and Field Championships early Sunday morning. The gold is the first in international competition for Walker, who continues to train at Dempsey Indoor on the UW campus.
A 2004 UW graduate, Walker has won three U.S. vault titles and two world championships medals since turning professional less than two years ago. Walker has been ranked No. 1 in the world since the fall of 2005, and entered Sunday's competition favored to improve upon his silver-medal performance at last year's Outdoor World Championships.
Walker's road to victory Sunday was complicated when the Spokane native fell off the pit during a practice vault Saturday, striking his head on the turf. The 24-year-old completed the qualifying round - finishing second overall - before undergoing a CT scan at the hands of the Russian federation, which determined no significant damage.
Still sore Sunday, Walker his missed his first attempt of the day, at 18-feet, 4 ¼-inch, but was perfect on his next two attempts to advance to 19-0 ½ with just one other vaulter, Sweden's Alhaji Jeng, remaining in the competition. After missing both of his first two attempts, Walker cleared the bar on his third, then watched as Jeng missed his final jump, giving the former Husky his first international gold medal.
"This is amazing!," Walker said afterward. "I didn't want another silver (medal) like Helsinki. Thankfully, on my third attempt everything came together and I won the gold medal."
Walker went on to credit the USATF staff, and the members of the Russian federation, for helping him in the aftermath of his training injury. "I cannot say enough about the USATF staff this weekend," Walker said. "Between chasing down my poles and me having my unfortunate accident in prelims, they were supportive the whole way through and walked me through it."
In addition to his gold medal, Walker won $40,000 in prize money from the IAAF. For complete meet results, visit www.iaaf.org.