John Uelses (born Hans Feigenbaum in Berlin, Germany, 1937) is a retired American pole vaulter and Corporal in the United States Marine Corps who graduated from La Salle University in Philadelphia in 1965. He was the first person to ever pole vault 16' (4.88 m) he held the world record in the pole vault for a short time with his personal best of 4.89 m. Uelses being one of the first vaulters to jump on a fiberglass pole, made this new style of vaulting pole the standard with his 16' jump. He was also featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated on Feb 26 1962. As a member of the Explorer track team, won the NCAA pole vault championship in 1964, 3 IC4A championships and 2 MAC championships in the event. Also played soccer for La Salle.
He was born in Germany just before the outset of World War II. When war broke out, his father was sent to the Russian front and died there. His single mother struggled and in 1949 sent her 11-year-old son to live with an aunt in Miami, Florida who adopted the boy. Hans anglicized his first name to John and took the family surname. He gained American citizenship after elementary school. He attended Miami High School, first running hurdles and throwing events before a friend enticed him to pole vault. He cleared 10'6" on the first day, improving to 13' by the end of his first year.
Four time World Record holder in pole vault, John was a world class track and field athlete. He was the first in history to clear 16 ft. breaking both the indoor and outdoor records. Sixteen feet was seen to be a psychological barrier similar to breaking the four-minute mile. His first record over 16' was 16' 1/4" at a sold out crowd for the Millrose Games at Madison Square Garden on February 2, 1962. A week later he again jumped over 16', this time in Boston. He later made a world record outdoor jump in Santa Barbara, California clearing 16'3/4" at the Santa Barbara Easter Relays.
Uelses, one of the first vaulters to jump on a fiberglass pole, made this new style of vaulting pole the standard with his 16' jump. His jump also landed him on the cover of Sports Illustrated on February 26, 1962. At the time of his record breaking jumps, Uelses was a Corporal in the U.S. Marines stationed in Quantico, Virginia. He was part of the U. S. track team traveling and competing all over the world. He vaulted and won medals in Russia, Poland, Finland, Japan, Germany and England. Uelses dreams of the 1964 Olympics were shattered when he was unable to qualify at the Olympic trials.
Uelses learned the art of bending the fiberglass pole at Quantico, from Aubrey Dooley. Uelses used a shorter run up than most other vaulters, but Dooley commented that was just because he could reach his top end speed in that shorter distance. Also unique, Uelses would bend his pole backward, away from the pit.
After leaving the Marines, Uelses received a scholarship to La Salle University in Philadelphia. John was a member of the Explorer track team He won the NCAA pole vault championship in 1964, 3 IC4A championships and 2 MAC championships in the event. NCAA All American. Uelses also played soccer for La Salle.
Upon graduating from La Salle, Uelses served as a U. S. Naval Officer. After completing flight school in Pensacola, Uelses served as a member of F-4 Phantom fighter squadrons and was a member of the first F-14 Tomcat fighter squadron, VF-1. Uelses squadrons were stationed on the USS Ranger and the USS Enterprise.
U.S. Track and Field Pole Vault Hall of Fame Florida Hall of Fame La Salle University Hall of Fame
- Jan 21, Washington, D.C. – 4.83 m (15'10¼") World Record
- Feb 2, Millrose Games, New York – 4.88 m (16'1/4") World Record Video on YouTube
- Feb 9, Boston Indoor Games, Massachusetts – 4.89 m (16'3/4") World Record
- Mar 31, Santa Barbara Easter Relays, Santa Barbara, California – 4.89 m (16'¾") World Record Video on YouTube
- 1st place USA Indoor Track and Field Championships – 4.72 m (15'6")
- 1st place NCAA Track and Field Outdoor Championships – 4.87 m (16'0")
- NCAA All-American
|Men's Pole Vault World Record Holder
March 31, 1962 – April 28, 1962