Mike Bull

Mike represented Ireland at swimming as a schoolboy and it wasn't until he was about 15 years of age that he became interested in pole vaulting. His role models were Murray Rose, Ian Black and Harry Gregg and with an interest in boxing he remembered listening to a world heavyweight fight between Don Cockell and Rocky Marciano with his father, John, in the mid 50s.

He was known as 'Tarzan' at school and when at St Malachy's he was tested for pole vaulting by his teacher Mick McCormick. Having good upper body strength and speed he was a natural for the sport. Facilities and equipment in the early days left a lot to be desired. Poles were made of bamboo or aluminium and there were only 2 inches of sand in the landing area, often surrounded by concrete paving stones.

At 17 years of age while still a schoolboy at St Malachy's College Belfast he won the Irish Pole Vaulting Championship before receiving a sports scholarship to study and train in America. Maturing all the time he got his first of 69 internationals ( a record which lasted over 30 years) at age 18 clearing 14 feet and 6 inches at London's White City in the GB v Hungary match and shortly after he became the first Irishman to clear 15 feet. Following this achievement at the Trinity Races he was taken out for dinner by Eamon de Valera.

At the Commonwealth Games in Jamaica in 1966 hearing 'Danny Boy' being played for Jim McCourt who had just won gold in boxing, spurred Mike on to seek similar success. He in fact won the silver at those first Games and set his very first UK record with a jump of 15ft 6 inches. Records and awards followed aplenty with the high points being winning 2 Commonwealth gold medals, reaching the Olympic Final and getting into the Top Ten in the world with vaults of over 17ft (5m20). A serious ankle injury in Helsinki kept him back from achieving his ambition of Olympic gold. However his trainer, Buster McShane , suggested he should become a decathlete and he is the only athlete to win gold medals in pole vaulting and the decathlon at the Commonwealth Games.

With his athletics career over he became the Head Fitness Coach training the Irish rugby team for 2 seasons and also the Ulster rugby squad. He ran a successful health studio in Bangor but his love for the sport brought him back again to the competitive arena. For two years in a row he won the Northern Ireland and Ireland Pole Vaulting Championship, the latter being achieved when 44 years of age. He then entered the World Masters Championship (Over 40) pole vaulting, held in Finland in 1991, clearing a height just under 15 feet to win gold.

He won the popular television competition Super Stars in 1985 and if he ever dreamed of achieving success in some other sport other than pole vaulting it would have been to score a try against the All Blacks or earn his living through golf.

  • Name
  • Mike Bull
  • Sport
  • Athletics
  • DOB
  • Sept 11th 1946 (Belfast)
  • Main Achievements
  • Gold Medallist Commonwealth Games 1970 (Edinburgh) Pole Vault 5m 10 and Comm Record
  • Gold Medallist Commonwealth Games 1974 Christchurch (NZ), Decathlon 7417 pts
  • Silver Medallist Commonwealth Games 1966 Kingston (Jam) Pole Vault 15' 9"
  • Silver Medallist Commonwealth Games 1974 Christchurch (NZ) Pole Vault 5m 00
  • 69 British International vests
  • First International Appearance 1965
  • Broke the British Pole Vault Record as a 19 year old
  • Captain of GB and NI teams on numerous occasions
  • World Masters Champion 1991 (over 40) Turku, Finland
  • Fitness Advisor to the Irish Rugby Football Union