Brian Sternberg

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Brian Sternberg in action, 1963

Brian Sternberg (June 21, 1943 - May 23, 2013)[1] was a former world record holder in the Men's pole vault. He set one of his records on May 25, 1963 in Modesto, California jumping 16 feet 7 inches (5.05 m) using a new technology fiberglass pole.[2] His final record of 5.08 metres (16 ft 8 in) was set on June 7, 1963.[3]

He graduated in 1961 from Seattle's Shoreline High School. Sternberg won the 1963 NCAA pole vault title and broke the world record in the event twice.[3][4]

Five weeks after his Modesto jump, while training in Hec Edmundson Pavilion in preparation for a trip to Russia, he landed awkwardly on his neck, in the middle of the trampoline, where a spotter couldn't help, while performing a fliffus, a double somersault with a half twist. The fliffus was a routine trick for Sternberg, one he had successfully performed hundreds of times. The injury left him a quadriplegic and his doctors were concerned for his survival.

In 1996, in a successful intervention to improve his quality of life, Sternberg underwent surgery in Germany, performed by Dr. Harry Goldsmith. The operation on his spinal cord allowed Sternberg to breathe deeper and easier, to speak more clearly and in greater volume and to remain upright for longer periods, which had the effect of improving his feeling of well being.

Sternberg's unusually long life as a quadriplegic was credited in part to his athletic training and to a positive attitude. In 2012, his body's systems began to fail. He died on May 23, 2013.


  1. ^ Rudman, Steve (May 31, 2013). "Huskies vault legend Brian Sternberg (1943-13)". Retrieved June 2, 2013. 
  2. ^ Raley, Dan (22 May 2003). "Cruel Worlds: Forty years ago, promising UW track standouts fell from grace". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. 
  3. ^ a b "12th IAAF World Championships In Athletics: IAAF Statistics Handbook. Berlin 2009." (pdf). Monte Carlo: IAAF Media & Public Relations Department. 2009. pp. Page 555. Retrieved August 5, 2009. 
  4. ^
Preceded by
Finland Pentti Nikula
Men's Pole Vault World Record Holder
27 April 1963 – 5 August 1963
Succeeded by
United States John Pennel