Isinbayeva Vaults Higher and Higher to Record after Record in Women's Pole Vault
Can there be a more exciting athlete in the competition than Yelena Isinbayeva? First a gold and then two successful attempts at the the world record attempt last set by...Isinbayeva herself at Gateshead. The high-flyer told a EUROSPORT reporter that she would now have a rest until...London 2012. We can't await to welcome you Yelena!
Well done too, to Stuczynski of the USA for a brave effort, to take silver.
On this particular night, Isinbayeva, who is one of the most popular athletes in Europe, had a little extra motivation beyond Olympic gold (been there, in Athens) and a new world record (done that, 13 times indoors and 10 times outdoors). In anticipation of the Olympics, Stuczynski, a pole vault neophyte -- she started in 2004 -- got rightfully excited at the U.S. Trials, where she set an American record of 16'1¾" and subsequently told reporters she was ready to go to China and "kick some Russian butt." Bad idea. Bad as in, as Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto put it, waking a sleeping giant and filling her with a terrible resolve.
On her third attempt at 16'6¾," Isinbayeva set the 24th world record of her career. As she plummeted through the air toward the mat, her face exploded in ecstasy. Her arms flew outward in triumph. "I felt I had the whole stadium to myself," she said later, "like I was an actress on stage." She punctuated the crowd's deafening roar with an impromptu front flip. Another gold, another record, and a serious message to her closest rival -- who isn't even close.
"It wasn't nice," said the usually bubbly Isinbayeva of Stuczynski's "Russian butt" remark. "First of all, she must respect me. And she must know her position." Pause. "Now she knows it."
And for now, that position is about five inches below the most dominant athlete in the world. With Isinbayeva's rivals so far in the rear view mirror, a more interesting question than who can challenge her, at the moment, is: How did she get so high?
She's strong: She weighs around 140 pounds and can bench press at least 155. But there are other strong pole vaulters. She's fairly tall: she hovers around 5-foot-9. But other vaulters are taller, like Stuczynski, who is 6 feet. She's relatively fast, but there are vaulters just as swift. So how is it that, since '04, she has won all seven major championships -- three indoor and two outdoor World Championships, and the gold medal at the Athens and Beijing Olympics -- and has vaulted nearly half a foot higher than any other woman ever has?
When asked, Isinbayeva's coach, Vitaly Petrov, who also coached Russian pole vault legend Sergey Bubka, starts by staring at the ground. He's trying to find a satisfactory answer that will translate in his amiable but limited English. After about a minute, Petrov settles on a single word and raises his head to deliver. "Harmony," he says.