Offbeat: 82 Year Old Pole Vaulter

August 19, 2004-- posted at 10:30 p.m.

JONESBORO-- Dr. William Bell, also known as Grandpa, has set the standard for vaulters to follow. The 82-year-old puts feet to his faith that there are no limits but the sky, by pole vaulting three days a week.

"You don't get any younger," said Bell, "Don't let age stand in the way."

Two world records and thousands of jumps make Grandpa Bell one of the greatest vaulters on the planet. "The number one thing is I'm vaulting at 82," said Bell, "It's still fun. If it wasn't fun I wouldn't still be doing it."

Bell's been 'doing it' for the last 40 years ever since jumping with his four boys in his back yard. Their first pole was a TV antennae. One of those boys, Earl, stepped it up a bit. Earl Bell is a three time Olympian, former American record holder and bronze medalist in the 84 games. He set a world record in 1976 and has too many indoor and outdoor titles to name. Now he's a re known coach, with three of the six on this year's Olympic team as his students.

"It's good to have at least one world record holder out here working out," said Earl about his dad. "The other guys are kind of second tear Olympic vaulters. Grandpa is the one world record holder we've got.

Grandpa Bell set the new mark for age 80-84 at 8 feet 6 inches, at a national Masters meet in Illinois. He trains three days a week at Bell Athletics, usually with his vaulting partner Pam Willard, and her future flyers.

"When I come down the runway I feel like I'm moving, but when I look at it on film, I'm old molasses coming down the runway," laughed Bell.

Molasses. Oh so sweet and smooth, just like Grandpa when he glides over the bar. On this day he Equaled his world record jump. He says his next mark is the 85 year old record at 7 feet 4 inches.