In less than one month Jack Hicking will compete against the world’s best junior pole vaulters at the IAAF
World Junior Championships, becoming the first NSW male pole vaulter to compete on this stage. Last
evening at Bankstown he smashed his personal best by 21 centimetres, cleared a NSW junior and open
record of 5.26m. It was also the ninth best jump in the world this year by a junior.
In this revealing interview Hicking outlines his not so smooth path to selection last summer overcoming
injury to earn his place.
ANSW: When did you start athletics? Was it was in Little Athletics? How did you get involved? What club,
events and what successes did you have then?
Jack: I started little athletics in 2005 in the under 11s with Bankstown Sports Little Athletics Club. We (my
two sisters and me) started there after enjoying our school athletics carnivals. I always did a bit of
everything and had a year or two where I was coached for sprints and long jump, which at the time were
the events I enjoyed the most. I was never particularly good at any event but in my first year of under 17s I
made Little A’s State for the 110m and 200m hurdles and came fourth in the final for both, which was fun
to compete at a championship in an event other than pole vault.
ANSW: How did you get into pole vault?
Jack: My mum was asked by her boss, who was an ex gymnast, if she knew of any pole vault coaches
because he was interested in trying it. Not long after that while I was doing some training for little
athletics, Phillip Carerro, the club’s pole vault coach turned up and mum mentioned to him that her boss
would love to give it a go. He started training for pole vault and would give me a lift to the track for
training. I was then asked if I wanted to give it a go and have been doing it ever since.
ANSW: Can you tell us about the ups and downs of the last couple of years?
Jack: 2012 was my HSC year and I can definitely say I didn’t cope with the stress well. I put a lot of
pressure on myself without realising and it really affected my jumping. Most of my season was sub-par up
until I finished my exams when I was able to turn up to training with a clear mind. By the end of the season
I was able to perform again and finished the season on a high with two wins at national juniors and a PB at
open nationals. The 2013-14 season started off great. I was jumping really well off short runups and was
able to have a solid base block as my uni timetable enabled me to free up some extra time and I didn’t
have to peak for All Schools. Towards the end of 2013 I started to have some lower back pain and I went to
get a CT scan. The results came back showing I had three mild bulging discs. I had to reduce my training
load and wasn’t all that motivated to go to training. After regularly seeing a chiropractor and not loading
my back I was able to start jumping high again and secured my spot in the World Juniors team – this was
definitely one of the ups in the last few years.
ANSW: Your coaches have had a big influence on your career?
Jack: I'm so grateful to have such supportive coaches who not only take an interest in my sporting life but
take a holistic approach to coaching where I am able to share anything without judgement. Both Zsuzsa
and her husband, Zsolt, (who helps out with coaching whenever he can) were successful international
athletes themselves and use their personal experience to better me as an athlete. They have helped me to
realise that if I put the effort in, with their help, I can make the international circuit in the near future - and
having your coach believe in you is vital. If I'm not feeling the best, they often sense it before I do and help
me to focus on the positives to achieve the overall goal for the session. I am so lucky to have found such
well rounded coaches with a depth of knowledge of athletics that amazes me. I'm not the easiest athlete to
work with and require a lot of support during training. I most certainly wouldn't be where I am without
them. So I’d like to say a huge thank you to Zsuzsa and Zsolt.
ANSW: If you had your time over again what would you do differently?
Jack: I don’t think I would do anything different to be honest. Although I made a late change of coaches in 2012, which if done earlier I could possibly have made World Juniors that year. I think it has helped me appreciate the amount of work my coaches put in every day. I’ve been able to really focus on my technique for over a year as I haven’t had any pressure of jumping a certain height and in the long run I think this will help me.
ANSW: Do you have an advice for other athletes?
Jack: I think the main thing is to enjoy yourself. If you are happy to be at the track, gym, hill etc. you can put 100 per cent into your session and the improvements from training will be maximised. I would also encourage getting a high quality coach as soon as you choose an event(s) to focus on. It takes a lot less time to learn the skill correctly than to have to fix all the technique flaws you may have previously picked up.
ANSW: What are your goals at the World Juniors and over the next few years?
Jack: My goals for World Juniors are to make the final and jump a PB. Hopefully by doing so I can break the NSW open record which is another short term goal of mine.
(UPDATE: Last night at Bankstown Jack achieved this goal with a leap of 5.26m)
Over the next few years I hope to compete internationally at a senior level - World Championships would be amazing.
ANSW: Why do you do athletics?
Jack: I have participated in sport from a young age and it just feels natural to be out and about. I am super competitive and can’t sit still, so athletics seems like the perfect match. I also love being mentally challenged – which I certainly get a lot of with pole vault
ANSW: Outside of athletics, are your working or studying? Career goals?
Jack: I am currently studying a Bachelor of Physiotherapy part time at ACU. I also work Saturday nights at a local bottle shop if there are no competitions on. My career goals are to first of all graduate and then I hope to get into post-surgery rehabilitation, possibly at a hospital.
Jack Hicking - Statistics DOB: 22/02/1995
Born/resident: Padstow Heights Club: Bankstown Sports Senior Athletics Club Coach: Zsuzsanna Olgyay-Szabo (and Zsolt Zsombor) Personal best: Pole Vault 5.05m Progression Pole Vault:
2011 – 4.50m
2012 – 4.70m
2013 – 4.90m
2014 – 5.26m
David Tarbotton and Ron Bendall for Athletics NSW
Image: Jack Hicking (courtesy of David Tarbotton)