SYDNEY (AFP) - A group of world-class pole vaulters took a chunk out of a Sydney airport ceiling in an embarrassing mishap while lumping their unwieldy equipment through the terminal, reports said Monday. The vaulters -- Australian pair Paul Burgess and Beijing Olympic champion Steve Hooker and American 2004 Olympic gold medallist Tim Mack -- were refused permission to send their 5.2 metre (17ft) poles via the outsize luggage area. But trouble struck as they carried them through the domestic airport. Burgess said he "broke the airport" when he got the poles of his training partner Hooker stuck in an escalator. Plaster rained down on Burgess when the poles wedged into the step of the escalator and smashed through the ceiling. "We were taking the poles down the escalator and Steve was behind me and I saw this overhanging glass sign ahead," he told The Australian newspaper. "I put my poles down to miss it and then turned and said to Steve, 'Don't hit the pane of glass', and as I said that my poles hit this plaster wall and went into the ceiling." One quick-thinking commuter activated the escalator's emergency stop button to prevent the poles from snapping. Hooker said the poles were only freed 45 minutes later when a technician reversed the escalator. Neither athlete was injured and fortunately all six poles -- each valued at 800 dollars (520 US) -- seemed to have survived intact as the group headed to Melbourne for Thursday's IAAF World Athletics Tour meet.