Only three women in history have jumped higher than US pole vault star Demi Payne. We chat to the 4.90m vaulter on some first things that hold genuine significance to her.
I believe it was in Dallas, Texas. It was around my sophomore year at high school and I believe I jumped 11ft something. I was up against some really good girls, so I definitely didn’t win the competition but I enjoyed the experience. I do remember telling my dad (Bill Payne, a former 5.86m vaulter) to “cool it” because he was pacing up and down during a competition. He still does that to this day.
First track and field disappointment
At a state track meet in my senior year, I was timed out when I was about to take my last attempt at a height. I didn’t know the clock was running and the time ran out. I’m pictured in the paper with my hands on my head. I finished third or fourth in the competition and it is a mistake I’ve never repeated.
First pole vault coach
My dad introduced me to the sport of pole vault before I was coached by a guy called Glenn Dickson. He was a little more reserved than my current coach, but he was a perfect first coach for me.
It was basketball. I remember I loved basketball throughout high school. My mum was a very good basketball player at Baylor University and I was pretty good. I was tall and lanky and got some rebounds. I really liked basketball, so it was a hard sport to give up, although I remember telling my basketball coach aged about 17 that I would no longer play the sport because I wanted to focus on track and field. He told me I would never get a full ride to do track at college and that was hugely motivating for me.
First international competition
It was only last year when I competed in Toronto, Canada at the Pan American Games. I competed okay, finishing fourth behind the likes of Jenn Suhr (the Olympic champion) and Fabiana Murer (the 2011 world champion) and Yarisley Silva (the world champion). Canada is a super beautiful country and my coach and I went over the Niagara Falls in a helicopter. It was the coolest thing ever.
First media interview
I’m fairly sure it was a local newspaper in New Braunfels, who asked me a few questions about my pole vaulting at my senior year at high school. I’m sure I said some really dumb stuff. It was very exciting to see the article and my mum bought about 50 copies of the newspaper.
First piece of clothing you bought
Probably a pair of shoes. I remember I had three pairs of Converse shoes.
First fashion disaster
I once remember my daughter, Charlee, must have put a fruit snack in my competition bag because I remember warming up for one pole vault competition at my local university track (at the Stephen F Austin University) with a fruit snack stuck to my butt! I didn’t realise it was there until I took my pants off after warm up. I don’t think anyone saw it.
Aged about four, I remember my dad made a huge three-storey doll house for me for Christmas. I was obsessed with it. It was really special to me and I played with it for many years.
First thing you learned to cook
Does macaroni cheese count? I was eating it since I came out of the womb. My mum taught me to make it with lots of milk, butter and cheese. My daughter is a fan of macaroni cheese. Besides the occasional corn dog, it is the only thing she eats. She is not the best eater.
That was a green jeep. It was actually my mum’s car who gave it down to me. It was a reliable car which lasted until my sophomore year at college.
It was a dog called Brazus, she was a mix. She was awesome. My dad tells the story where he fell asleep on the couch one time when our house was out in the woods. I was aged about two and I opened the door of the house and was gone. Thankfully, it was the dog that actually brought me back home.
Steve Landells for the IAAF