Fabiana Murer in the pole vault at the Brazilian Championships (© Getty Images)
Fabiana Murer produced the best performance of the Brazilian Championships in Sao Bernardo do Campo, Sao Paulo on Sunday (3), the 35-year-old underlining her Olympic medal credentials by taking the pole vault title with a South American record of 4.87m.
The Campinas native is expected to be one of the biggest stars for the home nation at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, and some 400km away from the Olympic stadium in Rio de Janeiro, she proved gold will not be an unrealistic proposition when she makes the journey there next month.
The four-day championships, which reached their conclusion on Sunday, were held at an altitude of 762m and used as the final event to decide the Brazilian Olympic team for the upcoming Games.
Competing in perfect conditions of wind and temperature (22C), Murer came into competition at 4.50m on Sunday morning, clearing it on her first attempt. She followed with first-time clearances at both 4.65m and 4.75m, then set the bar at 4.87m, which she vaulted on her third jump.
The clearance added two centimetres to her own South American record, which was set initially in 2010 in Spain, equalled in 2011 when grabbing the gold medal at the IAAF World Championships in Daegu, and then again in 2015 when finishing second at the IAAF World Championships in Beijing.
After that effort, the Brazilian had two fouls at 5.00m and decided to call it a day. This was the 10th time that Murer had improved the South American record in the past 10 years.
"I am extremely happy," she said. "I am always a bit nervous at the Trofeu because of the pressure, but I always manage to get good results here. I was finally able to leave 4.85m behind!
"In the end, I felt a bit tired physically at five metres, but I am proud for being a world-class athlete for such a long time, and I feel that the fight for the medals in Rio will be open for several girls."
Murer will now head back to Europe to compete at the IAAF Diamond League meetings in London and Monaco.
Joana Costa was second in Sao Bernardo do Campo with 4.50m, which secured her the Olympic qualifying standard to compete in her first Games at the age of 34.
National title for Braz with 5.70m
Another strong performance at the championships came from Thiago Braz da Silva, his 5.70m clearance giving him victory in the men's pole vault.
Braz, the 2012 world junior champion, has jumped 5.85m this season and is another strong Brazilian contender for an Olympic medal. After assuring his victory, he made three attempts at 6.00m, none of which proved successful.
"I believe I could jump it soon," explained the 22-year-old from Marilia, who holds the South American record with his 5.92m from 2015. "This is the third time I made an attempt at this height, but here it was a difficult day because of the wind."
Good marks were also produced in the combined events. Luiz Alberto de Araujo recovered from injury to win the decathlon with 8070, while Vanessa Spinola took the heptathlon title, setting a national record of 6188 but narrowly missing the automatic Olympic standard by 12 points.
Alves books Olympic berth with 8.19m jump
Long jumper Higor Alves achieved Olympic qualification by winning the national title with 8.19m (1.0m/s) on Friday. The 22-year-old obtained the mark on his first attempt, improving his 8.18m personal best from 2014 and leaving two-time world indoor champion Mauro Vinicius da Silva in second place with 8.03m.
"I am very happy to obtain such an honour," explained Alves. "The first part of the year didn’t go well, but the second couldn’t have started better. Now, without the pressure of reaching the Games, I hope to jump even better. I believe that my training will flow differently and better results will continue to come."
In recent years Caio Bonfim and Erica de Sena have graduated to the international level in the 20km race walk, and in Sao Bernardo do Campo they confirmed that they should be in top form for Rio.
Bonfim, bronze medalist at the 2015 Pan-American Games and sixth at the IAAF World Championships in Beijing last year, dominated his race, passing 10km in 42:47 and coming home a worthy winner in 1:23:26, having covered the final 5km in 19:48.
The 25-year-old from Brasilia, who has a personal best of 1:20:20, will conclude his Olympic preparation in the US, training at altitude.
De Sena obtained her sixth consecutive national title with a winning time of 1:37:38, having passed halfway in 48:00. The South American record-holder, who finished fourth at the IAAF World Race Walking Team Championships earlier this year, will now travel to the French town of Mont Romel (1700m of elevation) for her final preparation before Rio.
"There I will meet my husband, Ecuadorian 50km specialist Andres Chocho," said De Sena. "I will return to Rio on 14 August, five days before my race. With Andres we live in Cuenca, at 2500m of elevation, and at the World Race Walking Team Championships in Rome I felt I lacked some speed. That’s why I will train in these coming weeks at a lower altitude, aiming to improve that aspect."
On the final day of competition, several athletes fulfilled their goal to obtain qualification for the Rio Olympics. Among them was sprinter Jorge Henrique Vides, who won the men's 200m in 20.40 (0.3m/s). Also achieving that feat was Kauiza Venancio in the women's 200m, taking victory in 22.93, and Nubia Aparecida Soares in the triple jump, who had a best of 14.17m.
The event, won collectively by Esporte Clube Pinheiros, marked the final competition for 35-year-old Jadel Gregorio, who still holds the South American record in the triple jump at 17.90m. Gregorio finished fifth here with 15.90m, and will retire as a two-time Olympic finalist and silver medallist at the 2007 World Championships and the 2004 and 2006 IAAF World Indoor Championships.
The next step of his life will be as Deputy Secretary of Sports of the State of Sao Paulo.
Eduardo Biscayart for the IAAF