Stuart Weir wrote this piece on Olympic and World Champ Katie Nageotte and how 2022 went from good to great!
Katie Nageotte – now Mrs. Moon – on going from good to great
For a long time, Katie Nageotte was a good pole vaulter. Now she is a great one – Olympic and World champion. Going back to 2018, she was fifth in the World Indoors in Birmingham and then the following year, seventh in the Worlds in Doha. Without it sounding like a cliché, how did she get from good to great? Her answer is fascinating. At face value, COVID and having your poles broken seem negatives rather than positives, but Katie used both to her advantage.
“In the year of COVID, luckily, we were able to keep training when a lot of people couldn’t. I’m always better after a pre-season when we have a couple of months vaulting, technically the way my coach wants me to. It’s easy to revert to bad habits, and you sometimes play catch-up during the season. And during that year, I knocked out a lot of bad habits just through repetitions. In the pole vault, you get better, more than any other, through repetitions on the runway. And I finally had the time.
“Then, when my poles broke, I think in May 2021, I got to try different brands and find the perfect one. I showed that I could jump high on all three brands I tried, but it comes down to what is best for your jump. So breaking the poles was a blessing in disguise”. For the record, her new poles are ESSX.
The relationship between the physical and the mental in an athlete’s performance is always a fascinating issue. Again, I wondered how Katie saw that balance in her development from seventh in the world to first: “It’s probably 50-50, but I had to tackle the mental things before I could fix the technical things. They are equally important but, if anything, I would say the mental is more important. In the past year, the technical ability didn’t go anywhere, but when, mentally, you are feeling down and doubting yourself and are running through, nothing will happen. So for me, the mental is more important – that has always been the issue for me. But they’re pretty even. I was doing a lot of things technically wrong, but we couldn’t fix them until we fixed the mental side so that I was attacking on the runway rather than being afraid of it. That doesn’t go away, but I’ve learned how to keep it at bay”.
Then there is the role of the coach. Katie has talked to me several times about how important her switch to Brad Walker in 2017 has been in her development over the past few years. She explains: “Brad really is the perfect coach for me because he has never yelled at me or got mad at me for not doing something he wants. He is a very motivating presence, and I have always wanted to do what he was telling me to. He doesn’t tolerate anything less than working your hardest. And I needed that when I first went to him because I didn’t know how to work that hard. It sounds kind of weird, but I was skating by on potential and talent, and he helped me get to a different standard. He is a perfect balance. He understands vaulting and simplifies it in a way that I can understand it. If I’m getting emotional, he makes it very matter-of-fact and keeps the emotion out of it. The last year has been a struggle for both of us. He had never seen that version of me – I had never been a version of myself. He was very patient with me throughout the year, and I give him great credit for that. I wouldn’t have known how to handle myself! He gives me all the technical things that I need. When I get a little worked up, emotional, and anxious – I tend to be a very anxious person – he is good at being that voice of reason, telling me that I’m going a little overboard. Like, ‘step back, you are good’”.
Finally, I had to ask her how it feels to be an Olympic champion and a World champion. I think she liked the question! “Pretty amazing. I feel that winning the Olympics was the dream come true and the cherry on top of a pretty phenomenal season for me. And then to back it up, having the past year when I really struggled where I was questioning ‘can I really keep doing this…Am I really that good? Or did I just have a really great year?’
— Meeting Hauts-de-France Pas-de-Calais (@Meeting_Lievin) January 3, 2023
A lot of doubts can come into your mind. And then to go and win the World Championship, especially off a short approach. I feel that it boosted my confidence in a way that will never be taken away from me. Sometimes when you win a big meet, you can think you just got lucky. But I know I did the work and earned it – just like everyone else. And if someone else had won the day, they would have earned it. It just feels like I now have the confidence that perhaps I should always have had in my ability. But I’m so quick to believe the bad days and the bad practices, but I don’t think I’m alone in that”.
Having just got married at the end of December, Katie is having a break in early January before opening her season at Millrose.
Agency- Final performance
Mr & Mrs. Moon. (He’s British) pic.twitter.com/WgGUgyJ3i2
— Karen Locke🥑 (@klocke1) December 31, 2022