Katie Nageotte in the pole vault at the World Athletics Championships Oregon22 (© Getty Images)
No athlete had a better front-row seat to watch Katie Nageotte’s travails this season than Sandi Morris.
And when Nageotte won the gold medal in the women’s pole vault on Sunday (17) at the World Athletics Championships Oregon22, Morris was right there beside her to celebrate the victory.
The only catch was that meant Morris was relegated to silver medallist. Again.
Nageotte, the Tokyo Olympic champion, became the third athlete to win the women's world pole vault title the year after striking Olympic gold.
Meanwhile, Morris won her third straight silver medal at the World Championships to go along with the silver she won at the Rio Olympics. That’s four silver medals in seven years. And Morris didn’t even get a chance to show what she could do in Tokyo last summer after snapping her pole and suffering an injury during the qualifying round.
“After Tokyo, this silver medal hurts more than any,” Morris said, “because I was like: ‘Maybe this was my turn’. But it just was not. I am going to stand up and fight even harder next year.”
Both Nageotte and Morris cleared 4.85m to share the world lead, which Morris previously held alone at 4.82m. Nageotte won the gold on countback, making the height on her first attempt with ease while Morris needed two tries.
“This year has been a struggle, to say the least,” said Nageotte, 31, who had been hampered earlier this season by a tightened achilles tendon on her take-off leg. “I know Sandi can attest to that. There were so many times I was debating retiring. It was hard to come to the track every day and stay motivated.”
The gold medal was the third for the US in the women’s pole vault and the first since Stacy Dragila won back-to-back titles in 1999 and 2001. No country had placed two women on the podium since Poland achieved the feat in 2009.
Nina Kennedy of Australia had an early scare at 4.45m, finally going over on her third attempt, and went on to capture the bronze with a season's best of 4.80m. She won the first medal for Australia since Tatiana Grigorieva also took bronze in the inaugural women’s pole vault at the 1999 World Championships.
Nageotte also snapped Morris’ 11-meeting winning streak — six outdoor and five indoor, including the World Indoor Championships, where Morris was the champion and Nageotte was the runner-up.
By that time, Morris, 31, had moved to Atlanta to train with Brad Walker, the 2007 men’s pole vault world champion. Walker was already working with Nageotte and directed his star vaulters to practice at separate times on the runway, but together in the weight room.
“Today is a little bittersweet,” Morris said. “I did want that gold, of course, but I’m so happy for Katie. I watched her, being her training partner. I watched her fight through so much.”
Nageotte, who had cleared only 4.65m this season prior to the World Championships, empathises with Morris’ plight. “Sandi is disappointed with her silver and that is why she is the best,” she said. “Because I would have been disappointed with the silver, too.”
Morris does have two world indoor titles, so there is some gold in her collection. However, she feels like this one slipped through her fingers.
Morris, whose PB is 5.00m, had a cleaner slate than Nageotte, who missed on her first attempts at both 4.70m and 4.80m. But after Morris, who had room to spare at 4.80m, needed that second try at 4.85m, the pressure was on to make 4.90m.
“I knew what I had to do,” said Morris, who looked like she thought she had it on her second attempt. “I had really good shots at it, but at least got the season’s best. It is hard to be disappointed at that, but it is hard to take another silver.”
The field of 15 was cut by two at the first height, 4.30m, and by two more at the second, 4.45m. Only eight vaulters remained when the bar went up to 4.60m.
Tina Sutej of Slovenia placed fourth after clearing 4.70m, while Katerina Stefanidi, the 2016 Olympic champion from Greece, cleared the same height, which was a season's best for her.
Kennedy also tried to clear 4.90m. She passed her third attempt at 4.85m to go for the higher bar, but failed on her only attempt.
“It’s my first major final and then obviously medal as well, so I’m stoked,” she said.
After placing fourth in 2014 at the World U20 Championships in Eugene, she said: “I wasn’t going to come fourth again. So to get in the medals was incredible. It was such a packed field out there.”
And she’s also stoked to come back for more World Championships.
“They’re in their 30s, I’m 25, so I’m still a little baby,” Kennedy said, “so I think I have a few more years ahead of me.
Karen Rosen for World Athletics
|WOMEN'S POLE VAULT MEDALLISTS|
|🥇||Katie Nageotte 🇺🇸 USA||4.85m WL|
|🥈||Sandi Morris 🇺🇸 USA||4.85m WL|
|🥉||Nina Kennedy 🇦🇺 AUS||4.80m SB|