Karalis: 'My happiness brings me the records'

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After catching up with Ivet Lalova-Collio in Sofia last week, our second #AtHomeWith guest on Instagram Live was the emerging Greek pole vaulter Emmanouil ‘Manolo’ Karalis who joined us live from his home in Athens, Greece yesterday evening.

Karalis has broken global records at U18 and U20 level and has made an excellent transition into the senior ranks, finishing fifth at the 2018 World Indoor Championships and fourth at the 2019 European Indoor Championships while still a teenager.

Now 20, Karalis talked about lockdown, why he wants to try a decathlon one day and coming through the ranks together with Armand Duplantis.

Welcome to the show, Manolo! How are you dealing with lockdown in Greece?

Thankfully our government took quick action and everyone is staying home. I think we are one of the countries with the lowest infection rates.

I’m home and I have a bicycle and a treadmill so my cardio is in good shape and I’m just doing easy stuff. I have my pole and as you saw on Instagram, I have pole vaulted on my bed! I do push ups and sit-ups and the treadmill. I am just trying to keep in good shape.

I saw Mondo, Renaud and [Menno] Vloon vaulting in their backyards on social media and they are so lucky. I’m so jealous but I have my bed!


How did you start the pole vault?

First of all my dad used to be a decathlete and he also wanted me to become a decathlete as well. He started me with the pole vault because it’s one of the most technical events in the decathlon.

I just loved the feeling of flying. I was just doing the small jumps at first but I love the feeling of flying, getting off the ground and bending the pole. I just stuck with it; it was love at first sight.

I was a prodigy. My coaches told me that I was good at pole vaulting for my age so I told my dad ‘I’m sticking with pole vault, I’m not becoming a decathlete’ but I still really want to try a decathlon! It’s one of my plans. Most of the pole vaulters have tried the decathlon and I want to take the ‘home’ personal best.

How did it feel to break your father’s lifetime best in the pole vault?

My dad’s PB was 4.80m and I was 15 when I broke it. I remember that night we went home and I told him ‘dad, I’m the boss now!’ It was fun. He’s happy I’m doing the pole vault but he always wants me to try the decathlon. We have a bet I will not break his lifetime best in the decathlon and I like challenges. It will be hard for sure but amazing.

Have you ever snapped a pole before?

No...yes, I have! It is scary. Your hand gets so sore and if the pole breaks at a specific part, you can’t feel your hands because of the snap.

Angelica Bengtsson from Sweden broke her pole in Doha at the World Championships and she cleared the bar on her next attempt. Every pole vaulter knows the feeling and we thought ‘she’s the real deal!’ It was a national record as well [4.80m to finish sixth].

What would you say has been your most impactful competition so far?

It was in 2016 when I first broke the world U18 record in Athens, Greece. I was 16, the record was 5.53m and I broke it by one centimetre.

I am confident but I am always so humble. Whenever I pole vault, I just see the fun part - I don’t think of numbers and breaking records. I just enjoy pole vaulting - I do it because I enjoy it. My happiness brings me the records.

I don’t like setting goals or numbers. I’m the kind of athlete who if he doesn’t get nervous and doesn’t think of specific numbers, I perform better if I’m relaxed.

What has been the most difficult aspect of your career?

Injuries. I’ve had two serious injuries and coming back from them was rough. On a mental level, you always have to be at a high level of confidence in the pole vault. If you’re not happy, your body is not happy and everything falls apart. The mental part is the hardest, the body just needs time.

What has it been like to come through the ranks with Armand Duplantis and to see him break the world record in Torun?

It was crazy. I’ve known him for five years and growing up with him as a person and as an athlete is amazing.

It’s motivation for all athletes - we are so blessed to have such a talented athlete. Everyone has the goal to try and compete and get a little bit better.


You’ve known Mondo for quite a long time. Do you have any funny stories about him?

It was in 2018 and Mondo broke the world indoor U20 record in the pole vault but it got denied because of the stands so it wasn’t ratified].

I texted him the night before I competed and I told him ‘Give me one week and I will break the record and after that, do your thing: break the record again!’ It was our national championships in Athens and I broke the record with 5.78m and the week after, he broke it again with 5.81m.

You seem to be someone who enjoys life and enjoys competing. Where does this attitude come from?

It’s my number one priority. I think it’s because of my family - we always try and look positively, be positive, never share the negative stuff. We’re just cool and try to enjoy every moment. It’s our mentality: be humble and enjoy life.

What do you think we can learn from the pandemic?

Being in isolation, I think a lot of people can try new stuff - learn or read. I’ve started to read but my new passions besides athletics are art and fashion. I love painting and sculpting and I actually want to create my own clothing line. I have so much free time to create - I’m the kind of guy who loves to create something from zero.

What is your favourite meeting on the circuit?

The Golden Spike in Ostrava, Czech Republic. It was my first ever meeting outdoors professionally and it was also the first competition competing in front of a sold out stadium. I also broke the world U18 record of 5.55m so that’s why.

Which meeting has the best crowd?

I would say Paris Diamond League. They love pole vaulting.


Who is your best friend on the circuit?

Milan Trajkovic from Cyprus

Who is the funniest athlete on the circuit?

Pawel Wojciechowski from Poland. Everyone loves Pawel!

What is your favourite workout song?

I have two. Dreams Don’t Die by Will Claye and PR by Noah Lyles!

Least favourite training session

Cardio sessions.

Favourite training session

Pole vaulting. Easy!

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