With both Olympic and European pole vault titles secured last season, Ekaterina Stefanidi heads to London knowing that she can complete the set of senior championships gold medals with victory.
Unbeaten on all seven occasions on which she’s competed outdoors in 2017, the Greek champion also recorded the highest vault of the season, 4.85m, in taking the win in Rome in June, while she has exceeded 4.80m on three other occasions, most recently in the London Stadium at the London IAAF Diamond League meeting.
No other vaulter is as consistent as the 2005 world U18 champion, who has won medals at every age group in all conditions in the 12 seasons since she secured gold in Marrakech as a 15-year-old.
But in athletics it is often small margins that separate the winners from the rest and that is especially true in the pole vault, where a first-time clearance in the later rounds can transform an athlete from challenger to favourite in seconds.
Of the five other competitors to have cleared 4.80m or higher outdoors this year, two have previously won global titles, while two others made it on to the podium in Rio.
Jenn Suhr took Olympic gold five years ago, the last time a major championships was held in the UK’s capital, and, having cleared 4.83m in Texas in April, the US vaulter will retain hopes of repeating that feat. The 35-year-old also cleared 5.03m indoors in 2016, a world indoor best height that Stefanidi has never matched.
Cuba’s Yarisley Silva took the world title two years ago in Beijing and, despite an inconsistent season, leads the Diamond Race following victory in Oslo in June. With a best of 4.91m, the 30-year-old has challenged for honours at every championship since Daegu in 2011 and has an impressive medal collection.
Sandi Morris of the USA and Eliza McCartney of New Zealand both secured top-three finishes in Rio behind Stefanidi and the former, in particular, will feel that she can finally take the top spot in London.
Morris, the Olympic silver medallist, cleared 5.00m for the first time in Brussels at the end of the 2016 season and her best of 2017, 4.84m, is only one centimetre lower than Stefanidi’s.
McCartney, just 20, has struggled to find her best form in the European outdoor season, but produced a personal best of 4.82m in Auckland in February.
Great Britain’s hopes of a home medallist rest on the shoulders of Holly Bradshaw, twice an Olympic finalist and the 2013 European indoor champion. The 25-year-old cleared 4.87m indoors in 2012, but set her outdoor best of 4.81m in Germany in July. That vault was her first time over 4.80m in more than five years, suggesting a return to form at just the right time ahead of another appearance in London to sit alongside her sixth place in the 2012 Olympic final.
Dean Hardman for the IAAF