Earl Bell
Bell in 1976
Personal information
Born (1955-08-25) August 25, 1955 (age 68)[1]
Ancón, Panama[1]
Height191 cm (6 ft 3 in)[2]
Weight77 kg (170 lb)
EventPole vault
ClubArkansas State Indians
Pacific Coast Club, Long Beach[2]
Coached byGuy Kochel[3]
Achievements and titles
Personal best5.87 m (1988)[1][2][4]
Medal record
Representing  United States
Olympic Games
Bronze medal – third place 1984 Los Angeles Pole vault
World Indoor Championships
Silver medal – second place 1987 Indianapolis Pole vault
Pan American Games
Gold medal – first place 1975 Mexico City Pole vault

Earl Holmes Bell (born August 25, 1955) is a retired American pole vaulter. He competed at the 1976, 1984 and 1988 Olympics and won a bronze medal in 1984, placing fourth in 1988 and sixth in 1976.

He also briefly held the world record in 1976, and coached several of America's leading vaulters during his retirement years. In 2002, he was inducted into the National Track and Field Hall of Fame.[1]


Roberts (right) returns a borrowed pole to Bell at the 1976 Olympic Trials

Bell was born in Panama to William "Papa" K. Bell and Yola Zimmerman Bell. His father was a medical doctor, a Masters Record Holder pole vaulter,[5] and attended the University of Arkansas. The family moved from Panama to Jonesboro, Arkansas in 1960.

In 1973, Bell entered Arkansas State University. He graduated in 1988 with a BSc degree in accounting.[3] While attending Arkansas State, Bell won the NCAA title in 1975–77. He also won the AAU championships in 1976 and 1984, placing third in 1981. In addition to participating in the Olympics, Bell won a gold medal at the 1975 Pan American Games and finished fifth in 1991.[2]

Bell came to the 1976 U.S. Olympic Trials as the world record holder. At the trials, he lent his pole to David Roberts, who broke his pole. Roberts won the trials with a new world record,[6] and placed third at the Olympics, while Bell finished second and sixth, respectively.[2]

Coaching career

After retiring from competitions Bell established Bell Athletics outside of Jonesboro, where he coached Jeff Hartwig, Derek Miles, Kellie Suttle, Daniel Ryland, and Jillian Schwartz, among other top pole vaulters.[1][7]

Bell is married and has three children: Drew, Sam, and Henry.[3]


Rare among vaulters, Bell managed to stay relatively healthy and productive for a long career, gaining US rankings among the best for 16 consecutive years in the Track and Field News annual rankings.[8]

Year Event World ranking US ranking
1975 Pole vault 3rd 1st
1976 Pole vault 4th 2nd
1977 Pole vault 4th 2nd
1978 Pole vault 5th
1979 Pole vault 5th
1980 Pole vault 6th
1981 Pole vault 6th 1st
1982 Pole vault 4th
1983 Pole vault 3rd
1984 Pole vault 7th 2nd
1985 Pole vault 4th
1986 Pole vault 5th 1st
1987 Pole vault 3rd 1st
1988 Pole vault 5th 2nd
1989 Pole vault 5th
1990 Pole vault 3rd


  1. ^ a b c d e "Earl Bell". usatf.org.
  2. ^ a b c d e Evans, Hilary; Gjerde, Arild; Heijmans, Jeroen; Mallon, Bill; et al. "Earl Bell". Olympics at Sports-Reference.com. Sports Reference LLC. Archived from the original on April 17, 2020.
  3. ^ a b c d Hendricks, Nancy (2014) Earl Holmes Bell (1955–) in Encyclopedia of Arkansas
  4. ^ "Earl Bell". trackfield.brinkster.net.
  5. ^ Masters Athletics Pole Vault Rankings.[1] Retrieved November 4, 2020
  6. ^ Putnam, Pat. "FLYING START TOWARD THE OLYMPICS". Sports Illustrated Vault | SI.com. Retrieved December 8, 2023.
  7. ^ Earl Bell. bellathletics.com
  8. ^ World Rankings Index — Men’s Pole Vault. Track and Field News
Records Preceded by David Roberts Men's Pole Vault World Record Holder May 28, 1976 – June 22, 1976 Succeeded by David Roberts