Moon Feeling Like “An Entirely Different Person”

From where Katie Moon sits ahead of her DL opener, the year ahead looks bright. ’22, on the other hand, was a rough ride for the world champ. (VICTOR SAILER/PHOTO RUN)

BRING ’EM ON. That’s Katie Moon’s view as — carrying with her the mantle of world and Olympic vault champion — she anticipates an outdoor season opener at the Doha DL meet on Friday that isn’t exactly set up as a gimme rust-buster comp.

At the seasonal kickoff meet for the 14th Diamond League season, Moon, ’22’s No. 2 World Ranker, will face no fewer than 7 of her event’s top 10 from last season. The field includes friend and training partner Sandi Morris, ’22’s World No. 1.

(This story was written before Moon’s 15-9¼ [4.81] win in Doha from Tina Šutej 15-7¼ [4.76] and Sandi Morris 15-5½ [4.71])

“Yeah, no big deal,” jokes Moon — née Nageotte — who tied the knot with British rowing coach Hugo Moon last New Year’s Eve. “First meet out, it’s everyone you’d see at the World Championships [laughs]. But I love that. I love that, especially in the pole vault, we always love to compete.

“I think for just about all of us it’s our first [outdoor meet of the year] and you never really know what you’re gonna get — especially in the pole vault. I think sometimes you have to compete your way into shape, but that’s not to say that we can’t come out and jump something really high.”

Despite “a little bit of tendinitis in my ankle right now,” Moon pronounces herself “really excited to see how it goes” on Friday.

Following on a brief indoor campaign back in February including wins at Millrose, the USATF Champs and the Liévin WIT, Moon says she has turned the page on what was an emotionally and physically trying ’22 campaign.

“What?!” you might ask. Last season Moon followed her Olympic gold in Tokyo with a world title on home soil in Eugene. True but besides her victory with the global title on the line, Moon won just one other meet in ’22, and that happened to be the annual Pole Vault Summit in Reno, her first competition of the year.

In retrospect, and for her even at the time, Moon says of vaulting to Worlds gold, “That was unbelievable and I think a little bit of a surprise if anybody saw how my year went.

“But what I will say is that this year I’ve felt like an entirely different person. This is the happiest and most confident I’ve ever been pole vaulting and I’m really excited to see how that can transfer over into results. I’m really excited to see how it can go.”

As jaw-dropping as it is that Moon and her competitors catapult themselves more than 16ft into the air and somehow clear bars in the process, those gymnastics, Moon asserts, are often easier to master than the rest of it — including wearing an Olympic gold.

“For me personally, my biggest challenge is my mind and just letting the doubts get the better of me,” Moon says. “Again, to hit on what I said earlier, last year was really tough for me coming off of the Olympic year and just crashing mentally, emotionally, physically, literally every way possible. Just crashing and trying to compete. Feeling that way was a really terrible head space to be in.

“And it was also hard because I felt guilty for feeling that way — because I had just won the Olympics. Who was gonna have sympathy for me [laughs]?

“I think all athletes deal with that to some degree of just doubting themselves. And people joke that pole vault is 90% mental and then the rest of it’s physical. It’s a very mental sport, and I think all track & field events are mental in some way.

“So it’s easy when it’s going well to believe in yourself, but to believe in yourself when you’re struggling a little bit and when you get the outside world putting in their 2 cents, it can be tough. So yeah, I would say that’s the biggest struggle for me.”

Of her ’23 DL opener just ahead, Moon says, “I know on any given day, any one of those women can jump extremely high. So it keeps you honest and keeps you working hard. I want to come out and be that person that jumps really high tomorrow.”