World-champion pole vaulter ready for Israeli Championships

Prime hope for American medal in next Olympics comes to Israel to compete.

brad walker 88.298 (photo credit: )
brad walker 88.298
(photo credit: )
The pole vaulting competition is always a highlight at the annual Israeli Track & Field Championships, but this year's field could be the best ever. From a group of Israeli prospects and some international talents, the last two standing on Tuesday night are expected to be European champion Alex Averbukh and world champ Brad Walker. Walker, who won the title at the World Indoor Championships earlier this year in Moscow, is starting a three-week, five-meet trip to Europe with the Israeli Championships and doesn't plan to disappoint. Visiting Israel for the first time, Walker, 25, was pleased with the conditions at the Hadar Yosef stadium and said that the climate reminds him of Greece, where he competed at the Papaflesia 2006 meet last month. The connection to Israel came via Daria Pavlov, an Israeli heptathlonist who studies and trains at Walker's alma mater, the University of Washington. But because the details weren't finalized till about a week-anda-half ago, Walker won't get everything done that he had hoped. "I wanted to get to visit Jerusalem," he said. But with a Golden League meet in Rome looming on Friday, he will head to Italy already on Wednesday. So far he's enjoyed the brief visit, including a relaxing day at the beach on Monday. Walker, who along with Toby Stevenson is a prime American hope for a medal at the next Olympic Games in Beijing in two years, sees this European swing as a major part of his 2006 schedule. Unlike his European counterparts, who are gearing up for next month's European Championships in Sweden, Walker's only major meets will be the US National Championships and the IAAF World Athletics Final in Germany in September. Walker, well aware that the tournament record stands at 5.85 meters, said that in a showdown between himself and Averbukh anything is possible, including soaring to a new mark. He has already jumped 5.85m this season, achieving the feat last month at Gateshead, England. Although the majority of competitions are outdoors, Walker actually prefers jumping indoors - and not just because of his success in Moscow. "Everyone has the same conditions," Walker said of competing indoors, but added "I think I'm pretty good in all conditions." On Tuesday night, Israeli track and field fans will get a chance to see first-hand just how good Walker can be.