Isinbayeva pays price for 'complacency'

No proper explanation for what happened, says Russian star

Defending champion Isinbayeva yells in anguish after failing to make the pole vault final. Reuters

Such was the impact of Yelena Isinbayeva’s exit from the 12th World Championships in athletics.

Just a year ago, Isinbayeva was screaming, bouncing up and down, doing cartwheels on the pole vault pit at Beijing, having sailed over 5.05 metres for her second Olympic gold medal. On Monday, the Russian left the scene in pain and agony, unable to register a height for the first time in nine years in a competition.

“The stadium was great, the conditions were great, I just couldn’t do it,” said Isinbayeva, struggling to control her feelings after her first defeat in a major championship in six years. She had dominated this sport like Sergei Bubka did in the men’s pole vault after the Paris World Championships in 2003 where she had finished third.

In the six years that followed, she won two Olympic gold medals, two World Championship titles outdoors and three indoor world titles, setting 26 world records along the way. But the way in which she crumbled on Monday was difficult to believe and the Russian herself couldn’t offer a proper explanation.

“I have no proper explanation for what happened. I was confident and cleared 4.70 during the warm up. When I was lying down and concentrating, I imagined my victory and good jumps, not defeat,” said the 27-year-old. “Sometimes, it happens in sport. Perhaps, I was overconfident.”

Indeed, after the way her season has unfolded, it would have been prudent for Isinbayeva to start from a lower height. Though she did clear 4.85 at Rome this year, it had looked like a struggle, especially when she lost to Poland’s Anna Rogowska in London last month on a countback, after both had cleared 4.68 metres. Rogowska was the winner again on Monday, this time at 4.75, with Poland’s Monika Pyrek and American Chelsea Johnson sharing the silver at 4.65 (and not as reported on Tuesday).

Isinbayeva started at 4.75 metres, not unusual for her even though at the Olympics, she entered the competition at 4.70 and at Osaka, at 4.65. As she failed once at 4.75 and two times at 4.80, Bubka, the Ukrainian legend, let out a sigh up in the VIP stands. Perhaps, his mind must have travelled to Barcelona in 1992, when he failed to clear a height at the Olympic Games.

For Isinbayeva, the last time it happened was at the Sydney Games in 2000, well before her reign began. The 27-year-old brushed aside suggestions that she should have started at a lower height. “I don’t regret I didn’t start at a lower height because even if I cleared 4.65, it would have meant nothing,” she said.

Isinbayeva now has work to do before the next Golden League meeting at Zurich on August 28. Unbeaten in four Golden League meetings this year, she has two more to go before she can win the million dollar jackpot.

Rogowska will be there to spoil that, not as a challenger, but as the world champion. The Pole was modest in victory on Monday, saying Isinbayeva was still notches ahead. “Yelena is the best – the only one who has jumped five metres. I would like to reiterate that she is the number one.”

The Russian, certainly, would love to prove it all over again.

DH News Service

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