No fairytale for Isinbayeva

No fairytale for Isinbayeva

Watching her jog around the Olympic Stadium track, flashing her trademark smile and waving to the fans, it was hard to believe Yelena Isinbayeva wasn’t the champion on this cold and windy night.

The Russian pole vault queen had dominated the scene, taking her sport to unimaginable heights but the aura of invincibility had faded ever since she no-heighted at the Berlin World Championships in 2009. Still, with a chance of an unprecedented third straight gold medal beckoning her, Isinbayeva was expected to be at the top of her game on Monday.

Instead, it was American Jenn Suhr who reigned in the pole vault pit, clinching the gold medal with a clearance of 4.75 metres, edging Cuba’s Yarisley Silva on a countback. Isinbayeva, at 4.70 metres, had been relegated to the third position in her fourth Olympics, after gold medals in Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008.

“Bronze is very tasty,” said Isinbayeva. “This bronze is like gold to me. Over the past three years, between Beijing and London, life has not been easy for me, both physically and psychologically. I was asking myself ‘why am I continuing? What for?”

After achieving everything in her career, it was a fair question to ask but for a champion performer, the pull of the big stage is hard to resist, as Isinbayeva found out.

“Yevgeni Trofimov, my coach, inspired me. He said, ‘let’s try again.’ I won the world indoor title at Istanbul this year and set a world indoor record of 5.01 in Stockholm. Then, unfortunately, I got injured in May (she pulled a muscle on her left thigh) and I could not train properly before London,” she said, revealing the reason for her below-par show.

“After competing in Monaco, I wanted to drop out of London. My injury wasn’t good but in
the end, we came. Today my leg wasn’t working. Today, it wasn’t a fairytale, competing wasn’t easy, that is why this bronze is like gold to me,” said the 30-year-old.

Intermittent drizzle and cold winds made it tough for the pole-vaulters, perhaps resulting in a competition that never rose to any great heights. “It was terrible for me. I know the weather was so-so in England but today, it was the worst possible for pole vault,” said Isinbayeva.

The Russian, who holds the world record of 5.05 metres, is struggling to come near that mark these days but she said she will continue in the sport, and even another tilt at Olympic glory was a possibility.

“My plan was to win gold here and retire. No, perhaps, I am thinking of Rio. The 2013 World Championships is in Moscow and of course I will participate there and go for gold,” she said. “Actually, my plans change every day. I am like a pair of twins. Today I wake up and say, I will stop. Then the next day, I say, I will continue.”

Whether she stays in the sport or decides to call it quits, the Isinbayeva story, certainly, will remain a fans’ favourite for years to come.

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