Yelena Isinbayeva successfully scales the 5m summit indoors in Donetsk (© Zepter)
In her 2009 debut, Yelena Isinbayeva raised her own World record indoors twice at the Pole Vault Stars meeting in Donetsk, Ukraine, today, first to 4.97m* and again to 5.00m*.
Jumping before a capacity crowd of more than 5000, the 26-year-old Russian added the indoor five metres milestone to her illustrious career. Isinbayeva, last year's World Athlete of the Year, has now broken the World record indoors in Donetsk for the sixth consecutive year, and today's efforts marked the 25th and 26th world records for the reigning Olympic, world and European champion.
Isinbayeva said that her pre-meet game plan was to add two World records to her already bulging collection.
“We had in mind to first do 4.96 and then five metres,” she said. “The reason is the atmosphere here. It’s a very special competition and there are lots of special connections for me here.” But her plan nearly went awry.
By the time she entered the competition, opening with a massive clearance at 4.76m, only three other jumpers remained: Brazilian Fabiane Murer, Monika Pyrek of Poland, and Russian Yelena Golubchikova. The former two passed at the height while Golubchikova, who won the Russian title on Friday, bowed out.
Isinbayeva decided to pass at 4.81m, which Murer cleared on her second attempt to break her own South American record by a whopping 10cm, and a mark superior to her 4.80m outdoor PB. Murer finally topped out at 4.86m and shockingly, Isinbayeva nearly did as well, not sailing clear until her third attempt.
She didn’t fare much better at 4.96m, missing twice, forcing a re-examination of her playbook. Two tries were enough, she decided, so she had the bar raised a notch to 4.97m.
“It was just superstition,” she said. “We decided for 4.97 instead of wasting another attempt on an unlucky number.”
The gamble paid off with a clearance that left ample room to spare.
With the speakers blaring a DJ Smash version of the Fast Food song, “New Wave” – “I was trying to find a song that would give me goose bumps,” she said of her musical selection – she finally smashed the five metres barrier indoors on her second attempt.
Part of her problem early on, she surmised, was forcing to wait as the competition progressed. “It was almost too much,” see said.
Isinbayeva has two more competitions planned this winter: the Aviva Indoor Grand Prix in Birmingham next weekend, and the Prague International on 26 Feb.
For Hooker, the waiting game pays off
Olympic champion Steve Hooker’s momentum continued with his fourth victory in as many outings this winter, this time with a clearance at 5.92m. But his win didn’t come without a few dramatic moments of its own.
Tired from a schedule that’s taken him from New York and Boston to Paris and Donetsk in just two weeks, the Australian decided to pass on a warm-up, fearing fatigue. He opened with a easy clearance at 5.62m, and decided to subsequently pass at 5.72m, 5.82m and 5.86, choosing instead to watch the competition unfold.
“I saw that the others were jumping well,” he said. “The gap was almost too long but I thought it would be safer to wait.”
5.82m claimed Swede Alhaji Jeng, while the next height proved too much for American Derek Miles. After a first attempt miss at 5.87, Olympic silver medallist Yevgeniy Lukyanenko – the leader after a first attempt clearance at 5.82m – passed to 5.92m, where Hooker decided to rejoin the festivities.
After a pair of misses, Hooker produced a massive clearance to seal the victory. As has become custom this season, he immediately had the bar raised to a would-be World record of 6.16m, a centimetre higher than Sergey Bubka’s standard set in Donetsk 16 years ago. But unlike some of the close efforts he displayed on his North American tour, this time he didn’t come particularly close.
“I’ve had so many competitions in just the past week that I’m really looking forward to sleeping in my own bed for a few days,” Hooker said. For that he’ll have to wait until his European tour concludes in Stockholm later this week.
In all, 26 vaulters from 11 countries gathered for the 20th anniversary of the competition organized by Bubka, who is IAAF Senior Vice President. Fittingly, the field also included his 22-year-old nephew, Oleksandr Bubka, his older brother Vasiliy’s son. Entering the competition with a 5.50m career best, the younger Bubka, hobbling with a minor injury, cleared 5.20m. One of the on-field commentators was Rodion Gataullin, a member of the event’s indoor six-metre club.
* pending the usual ratification procedures