Katie Moon – thoughts on 2023

Katie Moon entered 2023 as the reigning Olympic and World Champion.  This summer, she won the three competitions that mattered most to her, in chronological order: the U.S. Championships, the World Championship, and the Diamond League final.  She competed 10 times with a third, a second, a no-height blip, and seven wins.  Indoors, she had recorded three wins out of four, including the U.S. Championships.  She was second in the Diamond League in Zurich, which, perversely, is listed as an indoor meet being held in a railway station!

Katie Moon, Florence 2023, photo by Diamond League AG

I first met Katie in a transit lounge in Abu Dhabi in 2017. As we arrived in Doha together for the Diamond League, I became aware for the first time of the challenge involved in being a traveling pole-vaulter.  While I had mild anxiety about whether my suitcase had made the connection, all Katie’s attention was on her poles.  Even when they were safely located, there was a small issue: the minibus was too small to accommodate the poles.  Eventually, we set off with the poles sticking out of the minibus window – the only way it had been possible to get them partially into the vehicle!  While I found this all perplexing, Katie shrugged it off as just a normal day at the office!  I have had the privilege of having many conversations with her in many different countries since then.

Coming back to 2023, I wondered if she might be a little blasé about being US champion, given that she had won it three times previously but not a bit of it: “I definitely don’t expect anything in the sport. It absolutely means so much because the US women are the best in the world. I mean, we had all four women in the final at worlds, so not just to be making a team for the US, but to be winning trials and US champs is pretty incredible and definitely not something I take for granted”.

Katie Moon and Wilma Murto, photo by Diamond League AG

After a solid (4.81) win at the Doha Diamond League, she recorded a “no height” at her next event in LA.  Her initial, hesitant answer was: “I’m somebody that I really don’t like to blame facilities or situations like that”, before admitting that there were several reasons why she was not at her best that day. “What I will say was I just felt like there was something a little bit off, and I’m not sure, but it very well could have been the recent PRP injection. I had a huge blow-through and went up on the pole and then almost killed myself crashing down on the bar, and this is something that I don’t do like.  And it was really cold that day. I was competing in long sleeves and the long tights, and so it could have been a variety of things. Again, I really don’t like trying to blame the setup, but I do think there was something about it that was just a little, and whatever that was, I just kind of took it as: ‘OK, this is the fluke’ and moved on”.

Katie Moon, photo by Diamond League AG

She explained, too, that being in a stronger place mentally this year, she is better able than sometimes previously to accept and move on: “In the past, it probably would have messed with my confidence, but I feel like I’m at a place now where I just know what I’m capable of, and the very next meet I won a Diamond League, so I chose to look at it as a fluke. This is a one-off. Yeah, it happens. Just something was weird, whatever that may be, it’s OK. I chose to not let that get to me. I look at it and kind of laugh and say, ‘OK, like we’re human, this happens. OK, on to the next meet’”.

Katie Moon, sharing gold medal, photo by Getty Images for World Athletics

Before the World Championship, she had five Diamond Leagues, with wins in Doha, Florence, Lausanne, 2nd in London, and 3rd in Paris. How did she assess that series? “I don’t know what I was expecting. I mean, I train to win, so I definitely go in with confidence that with what my training is, I feel good, but we all know that anything can happen on the day. And so anytime I come away with a win in a Diamond League, it’s still very much, almost surreal, because not too long ago, I had never won a Diamond League, and I was consistently placing in the middle of the pack. And so to be winning these meets is just really incredible, and as much I would love to win every time, I never expect anything, but I will say the comps that I came in second and third in, I was definitely looking at it as ‘OK how can I be better in the next meet?’ I take the losses. I mean, second in a Diamond league is still pretty great, but I take those, and I say, ‘OK, what happened? How can we be there next time?’ And so I really do value those experiences as well”.

Katie Moon, photo by Getty Images for World Athletics

When we spoke, I thanked her for her time.  Her reply was: “Thank you for wanting to chat”. That reaction tells you a lot about Katie the person. 

In part two, Katie reflects on her Budapest World Championship gold.

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