By Israel La Rue
Katie Moon attributes her 2023 season and second straight women’s pole vault world championship—a shared gold medal at 4.90 meters— to her confidence.
“I would say this has been my most consistent year in terms of my mental side,” Moon said. “I felt very excited and confident and had very few doubts about my ability. In the past, I was very quick to doubt myself, and so this year I feel like my mental game really stepped up.”
She will be relying on that confidence one more time this season as she attempts to win the Diamond League championship Saturday at The Prefontaine Classic.
Last season, in 2022, Moon didn’t get off to the best start. At her first Diamond League meet, she finished seventh with a jump of 4.30. She didn’t place better than third or jump higher than 4.65 in the four meets that followed. It wasn’t until July at the World Athletics Championships in Eugene that she put it together, winning her first world title with a jump of 4.85.
She carried that momentum to her 2023 outdoor season, jumping 4.81 at the opening Doha Diamond meeting, a half-meter higher than her opening Diamond League meet jump a year prior. Her strong season opener was followed by two more Diamond League wins, her second straight U.S. title and her second straight world title. She didn’t finish worse than third place all season, and her worst jump was 4.65 at the Budapest prelims, a total 180 from the previous season.
Moon said that she struggled in the 2022 season due to a “post-Olympic depression” but being able to fight through her struggles to win her first world championship gave her confidence, and she would carry it into the 2023 season.
“I think that showed me, it instilled this confidence that you are really good at this, believe that you are,” Moon said.
Among her competition at The Prefontaine Classic is Nina Kennedy, who shared gold with Moon at the Budapest world championships.
The athletes made the choice to share gold at this year’s world championships at 4.90 after a grueling three days. The qualifying round, Moon said, was “the most exhausting prelim I've ever been a part of.” There was, as usual, one day of rest between the prelims and final. Then the final was highly competitive; Kennedy set the Australian national record twice, and Moon attempted her personal best at 4.95. Then each of the two decided they were at their limit.
“We were at a point where we had both given it everything that we had that day,” Moon said. “My body just absolutely hit a point where it said, ‘I can't do this anymore, safely and confidently.’ And I think for both of us, it was very much a no-brainer decision.”
Kennedy had won a bronze medal at the 2022 world championships, then finished second behind Moon this season in the Diamond League standings with 31 points and two wins.
After her bronze medal in Eugene, Kennedy worked to improve and contend for a gold medal. But when it came down to it, she said, “maybe this year I didn’t believe that I could be an outright winner, but of course, I want that outright gold.”
Moon said the two were already great friends and if anything sharing gold has bonded them forever.
“We already had a good relationship, and it was a lot easier to share with her,” Moon said. “And not that there's anybody on the circuit I wouldn't have, but it's always easier when it's someone you feel like you're genuinely friends with.”
The women’s pole vault field also includes Sandi Morris, the 2016 Olympic silver medalist; Wilma Murto, the bronze medalist in Budapest; Olympian Tina Šutej from Slovenia and Italian national champion Roberta Bruni.
Morris holds the American record of 5.00m, which she set at the 2016 Brussels Diamond League final. Moon’s current personal best is .05m lower.
“I would love to give the American record some shots,” Moon said. “I feel like I'm physically capable of giving it some good shots. So obviously we'll see how the competition plays out, but that's my hope, that I can at least get the bar to 5.01 and give it some shots.”
When asked how the season will end, Kennedy said, “hopefully with a win tomorrow.”
And Moon added, ““I’ll give you some competition there.”