Brian Sternberg

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Brian Sternberg
Brian Sternberg 1964.jpg
Sternberg in 1964
Personal information
BornJune 21, 1943[1]
DiedMay 23, 2013 (aged 69)
Event(s)Pole vault
Achievements and titles
Personal best(s)5.08 m (1963)[1]

Brian Sternberg (June 21, 1943 – May 23, 2013)[2] was a world record holder in the men's pole vault who was paralyzed from the neck down after a trampoline accident in 1963.

Sternberg set one of his world records on May 25, 1963 in Modesto, California jumping 16 feet 7 inches (5.05 m) using new technology for the sport, a fiberglass pole.[3][4] His final record of 5.08 meters (16 ft 8 in) was set on June 7, 1963.[5]

After graduation from Seattle's Shoreline High School in 1961, Sternberg enrolled at the University of Washington and won the 1963 NCAA pole vault title and also shattered the world record in the event twice.[5]

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

In 1996, Sternberg underwent surgery, performed by Dr. Harry Goldsmith in Germany, to improve the quality of his life. The operation on his spinal cord allowed Sternberg to breathe deeper and easier, to speak more clearly and with greater volume. Sternberg was also able to remain upright for longer periods which improved 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.

"Brian was given a very poor prognosis," said his mother, Helen in 2003. "They said with his condition, he probably would have five years to live. But he's a fighter."[3]

In 2012, his heart and lungs began to fail. He died on May 23, 2013, aged 69.[2]


  1. ^ a b Brian Sternberg.
  2. ^ a b Rudman, Steve (May 31, 2013). "Huskies vault legend Brian Sternberg (1943–13)". Retrieved June 2, 2013.
  3. ^ a b Raley, Dan (May 22, 2003). "Cruel Worlds: Forty years ago, promising UW track standouts fell from grace". Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
  4. ^ Video on YouTube @ 1:44.
  5. ^ 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. Archived from the original (pdf) on June 29, 2011. Retrieved August 5, 2009.
Preceded by
Finland Pentti Nikula
Men's Pole Vault World Record Holder
April 27, 1963 – August 5, 1963
Succeeded by
United States John Pennel