John Pennel

Biographical information

TypeCompeted in Olympic Games
Full nameJohn Thomas•Pennel
Used nameJohn•Pennel
Born25 July 1940 in Memphis, Tennessee (USA)
Died26 September 1993 in Santa Monica, California (USA)
Measurements177 cm / 76 kg
AffiliationsSouthern California Striders, Anaheim (USA)
NOC United States


John Pennel was one of the pioneers of the new fiberglass pole on the early 60s and with the new pole he was able to break the world pole vault record 10 times between 1963-69, not all of them ratified by the IAAF. However, he did have four ratified world records, the first coming in August 1963 in a USA v GBR dual meet, when he cleared 5.13 (16-10¼). He was the first man to clear 17 feet (5.18) when he vaulted 17-0¾ (5.20) at the Gold Coast AAU Meet in Coral Gables, Florida in August 1963, his second official world record. His other records came in July 1966 when he cleared 5.34 (17-6¼) at an International meet in Los Angeles, and in June 1969, when he cleared 5.44 (17-10¼) at the Sacramento Invitational. Because of competition from Fred Hansen, Brian Sternberg, and later Bob Seagren, Pennel won only one national title, the 1965 AAU vault. He was gold medalist at the 1965 Universiade. Twice an Olympian, Pennel was denied a medal in 1968 when he cleared 5.40 metres on his second attempt, only to have his pole pass under the bar, which was illegal in 1968, but the rule was rescinded the following year.

Personal Bests: PV – 5.44 (17-10¼) (1969); LJ – 7.13 (23-4¾) (1963).


Games Discipline (Sport) / Event NOC / Team Pos Medal As
1964 Summer Olympics Athletics USA John Pennel
Pole Vault, Men (Olympic) 11
1968 Summer Olympics Athletics USA John Pennel
Pole Vault, Men (Olympic) 5

Special Notes