Pole Vaulter: Delta Airlines Robbed Me Of My Title By Losing My Poles

l don’t know a lot about the sport of pole vaulting, but I do know one thing — having a pole to vault with is the first step toward victory. A college athlete claims Delta Air Lines cost her an All-American title by losing her poles, for which she’d paid $200 in oversize baggage fees to check on her flight.

Kati, a college student in Washington, tells KATU.com she blames the airline for robbing her of her third All-American title on Friday, because they sent her poles to Atlanta instead of Colorado Springs, Colo.

She checked in last Tuesday at Sea-Tac airport, paying the $200 in oversize baggage fees. But when she arrived at the airport upon landing — no poles. She says she spent four days calling Delta in the hopes that the poles would arrive in time for Friday’s competition.

“The most frustrating part, I think, for me, was I just kept getting the run-around,” she says. “I was talking, I was calling automated phone numbers that were hanging up on me or talking to people who didn’t know, or they would tell me one thing and something would be different.”

Finally, Delta told her the poles would be in Denver on Friday, two hours away, so two of her coaches set out to drive there. They got stuck in traffic, leaving her at the meet without her equipment or her coaches. She borrowed a pole, but it was too short.

“I needed my coach, and I needed my poles, so it was frustrating for sure,” she said.

In the end, Delta refunded her $200, but there’s no way to return the chance to win.

Pole vaulter: Delta Airlines lost my poles, robbed me of title [KATU.com]


Edit Your Comment

  1. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    I want to say it’s the athlete, not the equipment; but you get comfortable using the same equipment and having to use something else is undoutedly going to affect your performance. On top of all that, the stress and time wasted trying to get her equipment back instead of focusing on the competition.

    • RvLeshrac says:

      You want to say “it’s the athlete, not the equipment,” but you can’t vault 20′ with a 1′ pole. It has nothing whatsoever to do with being “comfortable” with the equipment, the equipment available at the event was inadequately sized.

      • Platypi {Redacted} says:

        Yeah, I would agree with that if you had to borrow a shot put, or maybe even a javelin. Those are pretty standard (though Javs have different weights/balances based on how you throw). But a pole vault pole is variable on a few different parameters, like flex, length, etc. If no one else is challenging the same heights, you wouldn’t have the right pole size/weight available, and would be compromising on flex, balance, etc.

    • OSAM says:

      Yeah, in this case its an issue of physics: she needs a pole that is specifically designed for her: length, weight, materials, spring factor, etc. If it isn’t right, it’s actually dangerous because you end up 20′ up in the air and have it snap, bend the wrong way, etc.

    • MutantMonkey says:

      Give a football player a set of pads 4 sizes too small and see how that athlete does. Assuming equipment for all of the players of a sport is exactly the same is a bit silly.

      • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

        I didn’t say exactly the same, did I? Yours was a bad example, as she is not “wearing” her vaulte pole. However, the article did mention the length. I was surprised by that, as I would have assume the length would be regulated.

        • catskyfire says:

          The length may be regulated, but only based on the height of the vault. With pole vaulting, it goes up as people clear each height. So while they may not permit something 5 feet taller than the attempted height, they may permit something 1 foot taller. And you definitely don’t want two feet shorter.

        • frankrizzo:You're locked up in here with me. says:

          Would have loved to see Babe Ruth use a 28″ bat.

        • frodolives35 says:

          I’m sure in the spirit of the sport her COMPETITION was happy to let her use a pole to short for her. I mean its only the women who beat them out the last 2 years.lol

    • Murph1908 says:

      In most sports, when you are competing at that level, your equipment is very personalized.

      It’s not about being the ‘same’ equipment. It’s the equipment drilled/sized/weighted/adjusted for you specifically.

    • stooj says:

      Poles for pole-vaulting are very different from each other. These aren’t just sticks, they are highly technical instruments wrapped with resins and built to order based on the user’s height, weight, and technique. This isn’t like sitting in someone else’s desk chair. Using someone else’s pole is like using someone else’s glasses.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      I actually agreed, in writing, that the OP would have a harder time with non-customized equipment.

      And yet, I’m getting so much flack. I WANT to say “it’s the athelete, no the equipment.” But I didn’t. Sheesh.

      • That guy. says:

        no the equipment


        Anyway, I think it’s because you said they are comfortable with their own equipment, rather than “their own equipment optimizes their performance”. As if they just can’t cope with someone else’s pole, but should be able to.

        • wade says:

          Loias has no problem “cop[ing] with somone else’s pole,” so he can’t understand why others might.

    • Duke_Newcombe-Making children and adults as fat as pigs says:

      Yes. Tiger Woods playing with custom made poles created for a shorter golfer would work better for him than for your brand X duffer, but not as well as his own would. And in a sport (pole vaulting) where victory and second place can be separated by 1/8 of an inch, having “your” equipment can make the difference.

      Yeah, equipment, especially equipment that is made to fit a certain metric of it’s athlete (golf clubs, poles for pole vaulting, gloves), especially at the upper echelons of the respective sports, is very user specific (within regulations, of course).

  2. That guy. says:

    “Where did you ship my poles?!”


  3. Darrone says:

    “She borrowed a pole, but it was too short.”

    I imagine her holding a broom handle. Mostly because it makes me laugh.

  4. GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

    So Delta tried to help, got the poles to the location they said they would when they said they would, but traffic caused the problem.

    Also, in the four days she knew there could be a problem, did she try to secure a pole and also practice with it?

    • Platypi {Redacted} says:

      Guessing you can’t just rumble down to Home Depot and pick up a length of PVC pipe. I would expect the team did a lot to try to track down replacements, but pole vault poles are pretty specific items.

      • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

        At any professional competition, I have to imagine someone else has similar equipment available. The other competitors for one (I assume good sportmanship still exists) and then the venue you’re competing at. For example, why would a venue with a professional-level pole vaulting field not have professional-level vaulte poles?

        • RandomHookup says:

          Nope. PV’ers provide their own poles — otherwise everyone would just show up and draw from the standard pool. Poles vary a lot in terms of weight and length (stronger vaulters can carry bigger poles), flexibility and the like. It’s like the equipment used in most professional sports.

          • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

            And when young adults to pole vaulting and don’t have the specialized equipment, it’s not possible they use equipment on site?

            • Platypi {Redacted} says:

              I am sure they start out with what their high school or club has available, start to get the feel of it, and then purchase poles when they get serious. I hope you see the difference between a starting vaulter going 6 or 8 feet, and a skilled competitor wringing every bit of technique and equipment performance out to get 12-15 foot vaults? There is a difference between basic pole and a competition pole designed for your height/weight/skill.

            • Duke_Newcombe-Making children and adults as fat as pigs says:

              As I said before, the more upper echelon the competitor, the less fungible the equipment among them is. And other competitors (who themselves want the title) probably would not consider it to be in their best interests to “loan” their equipment, to avoid aiding the competition, or to avoid damaged equipment.

            • RandomHookup says:

              Correct. Each school or team provides its own equipment for the pole vault. The best they can do otherwise is borrow from another school (and for a beginner, it’s not that big a deal — but it is at the higher levels as the equipment becomes more customized).

        • DeeJayQueue says:

          …Because they’re really expensive, highly unique pieces of kit, that’s why. They don’t have pro-level guns at the range, they don’t stock pro-level balls at the bowling alley.

          • TheMansfieldMauler says:

            “Hello, our truck is stuck in traffic and won’t be here in time. We’d like to borrow or rent a standard NASCAR vehicle, 16 sets of tires, and some tools. Oh, and a helmet if you have one.”

            • Chris says:

              Are you being ironic? If so, the joke’s on me. If not, think about what the S in naScar stands for.

              • TheMansfieldMauler says:

                I don’t get it. “Stock” because…they keep them in stock on a back lot at Pocono?

              • bben says:

                Nascar quit using ‘Stock’ cars in the 1970s. Before that a driver could buy a car at a dealer and run it in a race the same week. Then, for safety reasons they added some required specialized safety equipment. Over the years that has evolved. Now they use a plastic body over a tubular steel frame. The same frame may run as a Ford one week and as a Dodge the next – just by swapping the plastic body.They bear no more resemblance to a ‘stock’ car than a fighter jet does to a Cessna.

          • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

            No, but someone else’s pole is better than just trying to run at it and jump over, right?

    • Alexk says:

      Delta “tried to help,” by finally getting the poles to her four days late? After days of phone run-arounds, and then delivering the poles to a destination two hours away?

      Wow, you are generous.

    • MaxH42 thinks RecordStoreToughGuy got a raw deal says:

      Are you offering to pay for it? An uncustomized 17′ pole costs $741, NOT including overnight shipping: http://www.ucsspirit.com/vaulting-poles/product-detail.cfm/category/Spirit-Poles/product/520-Series-Spirit-Poles

    • who? says:

      But Delta didn’t get the poles there. She flew into Colorado Springs. The poles, 4 days late, flew into Denver. If Delta had actually gotten the poles to Colo Springs, there wouldn’t have been a traffic problem.

      I’m actually wondering why Delta couldn’t fly the poles from Denver to Colo Springs. There are flights between the two places practically every hour.

      • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

        Colo Springs didn’t have the ability to handle the plane that could accept such long poles?

        • shufflemoomin says:

          Except the poles were supposed to be checked onto the aircraft that clearly flew into that airport. Don’t understand why you’re trying to find excuses for that was clearly Delta’s f**k-up. Maybe you’re just feeling argumentative today?

    • icerabbit says:

      Oh please.

      a) The poles should have arrived at the correct destination the first time around.

      b) Mistakes happen. Get it right on day two or three and ensure delivery to the customer. But I guess that level of service doesn’t happen any more? We’ve had a couple of international mishaps and seen missing suitcases delivered to residences and hotels an hour or more away from the airport.

      c) Four days is certainly two days too late.

      d) It shouldn’t take multiple phone calls to get things right.

  5. AtlantaCPA says:

    I can see Delta saying “we go them there in time, too bad traffic prevented the coaches from getting them to her on time, not our problem!” …and they would be very jackhole-ish.

  6. VicMatson says:

    Delta send everything to Atlanta, they just missed the next leg.

  7. Hi_Hello says:

    since she got two titles, i would sue delta and see what happens.

  8. Dover says:

    Maybe she’s asking too much of Delta. Sure, they screwed up by putting the poles on the wrong flight, but they probably made a real effort to get them back to her; it’s not like Delta has a huge network that can transport goods across the country in a matter of hours.

    • Rodan says:

      Fedex does.

    • Important Business Man (Formerly Will Print T-shirts For Food) says:

      If I messed up something for one of my customers, you can bet your ass I’ll do whatever it takes to get their items to them when they need it. There are too many carriers who offer services that could have fixed this whole thing. Even UPS has UPS Critical.

  9. sgtyukon says:

    I blame the OP. She should have carried them on the plane with her and put them in several adjacent overhead compartments.

  10. Jane_Gage says:

    I guess she *puts on sunglasses* got the shaft.

  11. RandomHookup says:

    Airlines have been doing this since the days of Cornelius Warmerdam. I remember seeing Earl Bell and Steve Stubblefield vaulting around my little college campus in the day and they always had problems with airlines and their poles.

  12. TheMansfieldMauler says:

    With constant stories about airline luggage issues (including killing/losing pets), personal anecdotes I’ve heard and experienced, inevitable thefts, etc., airline luggage handling must be vastly more complicated than I’m picturing it to be in my head.

    • bhr says:

      It’s no excuse, but it really is.

      is a great video from England that shows the problem.

      Plane-to-Terminal is pretty simple, but Terminal-to-plane is chaos.

  13. JohnDeere says:

    im sure some baggage handlers purposefully misrouted them until they got a resale value on them, then realized that the are specific to the person and just let her have them back.

  14. BigHeadEd says:

    Regardless of her two previous titles, maybe it would be more accurate to say “Delta robbed me of a CHANCE at the title”, or maybe she should just argue with the athletic association officials to give her the title anyway.

    • nybiker says:

      Right, it’s not like sports teams don’t play games where it’s obvious who’s going to win.
      And what about the US & Russia getting into a tiff years ago and decided to not go to some Olympic matches. I think it would be fair to say that some athletes figured they were going to win gold.

  15. Overshoot says:

    I have two problems with what happened (based on the information in this story)
    #1 – No one at Delta said, “I’ll find out what happened to them and get back to you. What number can I reach you at?”

    #2 – Four days to find them?
    Are you kidding? Baggage is scanned everywhere it goes. Also, it’s not like it is a black roller that they lose every day. Delta should have sent an email to every unclaimed baggage department saying, “Hey! Did you end up with a REALLY long package that no one claimed? The baggage tag says that it should go to Colorado Springs but it never made it there.”

    In normal weather situations – where there aren’t a lot of rescheduled and re-booked flights, it is a management issue if they can’t find a bag in 24 hours.

    Every bag is tagged and associated with a passenger or customer, and if a bag lost its tag that ought to trigger a red flags because it means that their is going to be a customer missing their stuff.

    ALSO – I’d be willing to bet that that LONG bag had a personal luggage tag on it with a name and phone number.

    Delta didn’t care. If they did they would have found it within 24 hours.

  16. IceCat says:

    Delta short for: Don’t Ever Leave The Airport.

  17. britswim04 says:

    Does anyone else find it kind of weird that pole-vaulting poles aren’t a uniform size and height, or at least men’s sizes and women’s sizes?

    • elangomatt says:

      I am sure that you find it unusual as well that baseball players don’t just use the same bat as everyone else too. And hockey players just have that bank of different kind of hockey sticks behind the bench just for show since they all use the same style of stick.

    • key2616 says:

      No I don’t. Of course, I know more about the sport than simply how to spell it.

  18. Draw2much says:

    I gotta say, I’m not sure how an airline can lose a pole for vaulting. This isn’t some generic shaped item or something, it’s a pole. Even if they sent it to the wrong place, it shouldn’t be THAT difficult to find. And it certainly shouldn’t take 4 days to get to the nearest airport either.

    I know the baggage system is super complex, but I feel like they ought to work out a better system for lost items. What they have now doesn’t seem to work all that well.

  19. CrazyEyed says:

    Man, she got the short end of the stick

  20. dush says:

    More proof that Delta airlines is for losers.

  21. ToddMU03 says:

    So if the poles had been there in time she was guaranteed of a title? What about the other competitors.

  22. SeanPatrick says:

    Oh it’s sad when bad things happen to whiny people. Buck up.

    • Kuri says:

      Yes, how dare she complain that she and her family may be out over a grand because he custom made sporting gear is missing.

  23. TerpBE says:

    I’ve always heard it’s not the length of the pole, it’s what you do with it.

  24. n0th1ng says:

    I’ve said it before and i’ll say it again: Don’t trust the airlines with anything more valuable than clothes. If you can’t afford to lose it, or you can’t bring it inside of the aircraft, ship it. Yes there is a chance Fedex or UPS could fuck it up but the likelihood is a lot smaller than with an airline.

  25. key2616 says:

    How amusing to see non-track athletes try to comment about things they know nothing about, except for during Olympic years.

    Anyone commenting about the ability to use other poles, not being a big deal or in any way implying that this isn’t a big deal to the athlete is ignorant of track in general and the pole vault in particular. Which means that those posts shouldn’t be taken seriously since the poster doesn’t know what the hell they’re talking about.

    Poles of this caliber can run up to $7,000, and are precisely calibrated to allow someone to run 50M at full speed, insert one end into a small box, then lever themselves using the pole’s energy up 15′-20′ (depending on the gender and quality of the athlete). It’s not something that can be done pole the athlete has never used before, and it’s not something that’s even recommended since the pole vault is an inherently dangerous sport (every couple of years someone is killed/seriuosly injury when they land outside the pit.

    Poles are not interchangable, and athletes usually have several of them for different situations, like height attempted, wind conditions or risk/reward for new heights attempted.

    So all of you who think that this isn’t a big deal go back to the NBA or whatever you’re doing before London starts up and let the track athletes do their thing to get ready. We’ll be ready for the 17 days of attention you deign to pay every 4 years.

  26. RoadDogg says:

    Why didn’t she borrow a longer pole? I didn’t do track in college but at the high school level you were allowed to use anyone’s equipment, regardless of if you knew them. If they wanted to compete with it, it was fair game for anyone to use. My coach used to tell the shot putters all the time to use the leading guys ball in case they were cheating with a light one.

  27. framitz says:

    Her attitude makes me not the least sympathetic to the issue.

    • Cor Aquilonis says:

      Yes, how dare she be pissed that her multi-hundred (perhaps -thousand dollar) customized equipment, $200 baggage fee and thousands of hours of work culminating in a major competition be flushed because one company can’t get it’s act together. It’s totally the OP’s fault.


  28. ned4spd8874 says:

    I hate delta. For this and many other reasons. That is all.

  29. Levk says:

    mmm… You see, if you pay for bag fees you think they fix these issues… loosing luggage is a prime example of way we should not pay for baggage fee if nothing changed

  30. Kuri says:

    Sadly I’m expecting more stories like this as the summer games approach

  31. Aliciaz777 says:

    This is not the OP’s fault. This is the airline’s fault. I can’t imagine how this athlete must feel right now as I’ve never competed in sports, but I hope the airline reaches out to try and offer some kind of compensation. Refunding her $200 fee isn’t enough, IMO. But the day an airline does anything above and beyond to make up for their mistakes is the day we all start farting rainbows.

  32. ecuador says:

    Note that they did not even refund her $200 fee! They just gave her a voucher!
    Also, it is important to know that competitive pole vaulters use custom poles with which they train. They cannot just borrow another pole.