Competing in any sport at the top level takes a lot of hard work… but it takes a special kind of dedication to become a champion pole vaulter.

BSSC Year 11 student, James Woods, was 11 years old when he first got involved with athletics as a high jumper. But it was as a pole vaulter that he eventually found his niche, and in 2019 it took him all the way to gold at the Australian All Schools Championships.

“I absolutely love the complexity of pole vaulting, it makes it so interesting,” James says. “It’s just so much fun. I also love how athletics brings people together whether it be for serious competition or just to have some fun on the weekends.”

James feels his greatest success so far was winning a medal at the Oceania Championships in Townsville last June.

“To be competing as a minor athlete and then go home with a medal… that really takes the cake,” he says.

Like everywhere else in the world, COVID-19 has really taken its toll on sporting events in Australia. For athletes like James, the thought of not being able to compete anytime in the near future is heartbreaking.

“The National Championships in Sydney was cancelled last season,” he laments. “It’s one of the major comps that all Australian athletes prepare for, and not being able to compete when you’re at your peak… that’s pretty devastating.”

Even training has its challenges during COVID restrictions, with athletes unable to use any equipment that is touched—including poles!

“Mt training at the moment is mainly based around running at the track and strength training at home,” James says. “Everyone has their fingers crossed that events will open up again in the coming season.”

Of course 2020 hasn’t just affected sport. James, like thousands of other Victorian students, is at the business end of his secondary schooling, now spending many weeks as a remote learner.

“I’ve found it pretty challenging,” he admits. “It’s very easy to get distracted, but I’m doing my best to have work ethic and complete all the work set by my teachers.

“One unexpected benefit is being able to go out the back and do a workout whenever I have some down time. But it’s definitely very hard for everyone to stay motivated, so I take my hat off to people trying their hardest to do their best at home.”

While athletics and dreams of representing Australia at the Olympic Games are at the forefront of James’ career plans, he’s also realistic about having a back-up.

“Obviously I would love to have a career in athletics, but if not I’d like to train to be a pilot the Air Force.”

It seems there’s nothing that will keep James from spreading his wings.