Stockholm, SwedenMost of the nearly 10,000 spectators gathered in the Ericsson Globe Arena in Stockholm on Thursday (23) to experience the 2012 edition of “XL-Galan” chose to stay on when the meet was all but over at 10 p.m. with just one athlete in one event remaining. The minority that did leave will certainly live to regret that decision.
Because that sole athlete remaining in action was pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva and the Russian capped her competition with a perfect clearance of 5.01m, one centimetre better than her own current World Indoor Record set in Donetsk three years ago!
Those that did leave prematurely might have been excused by the fact that Isinbayeva’s previous competitions this winter didn’t at face value signal that she was in 5m+ form: 4.70m in Volgograd on 21 January, 4.68m in Bydgoszcz on 8 February and 4.81m in Liévin 14 February. But anyone who paid reasonably close attention to Isinbayeva’s early vaulting last night in Stockholm knew that at least the current World lead of 4.88m (Jenn Suhr) was vulnerable.
Because Isinbayeva didn’t enter until 4.72m which she cleared in emphatic fashion on her second attempt and followed it with a huge clearance of 4.82m. That sealed the win as both the young Briton Holly Bleasdale and Cuban Yarisley Silva exited at that height - although the Cuban was quite close at least once. This despite having spent no less than 11 vaults at the four previous heights including the new national record of 4.72m.
Isinbayeva went on alone – just like in the good old days – and by making 4.92m on her third attempt she did get the world Lead position for this season. Thumbs up and smiles from “new old” coach Trofimov who obviously liked what he saw. A few minutes later he was even happier when – after a decent but not close first attempt – she sailed completely clear of the bar at the World record height of 5.01m.
Isinbayeva herself – as always with her emotions on full display for everyone to see –exploded in joy as only she can. First she rushed over to Trofimov to give the biggest of hugs, then she went out on a spontaneous lap of honour in response to the standing ovation in the stands and finally she grabbed a microphone and thanked not just coach Trofimov but also everyone in the arena that had made the record possible through their vociferous support.
If it had been practically possible she probably would gladly have spoken to everyone and given everyone a hug. It was so obvious that this record meant the world to her as a mixture of relief, joy and having proven all her doubters wrong!
“This was the real comeback. This year I am fully concentrated. I am so happy to have come back at this level. I also like to make all my fans happy and I think I did that today.”
“After 4.92 I thought, ‘OK, this is my night.’ My body answered me ‘Yes, we can do it together.’”
Chicherova 2m again
The World record at 10.08 p.m. of course overshadowed everything that had preceded it during nearly two and a half hour of intense action. That consequence of the record vault certainly wasn’t fair as there was so much more of exciting top quality action.
In the women’s High Jump another Russian who will turn 30 just before the Olympics proved that kind of age isn’t really a problem. Anna Chicherova was simply in a class of her own: Huge first time clearance at 1.84m, 1.91m and 1.94m actually secured the win. At 1.97m, which Chicherova passed, the only two still remaining opponents, Tia Hellebaut and Ebba Jungmark, were eliminated. The best of their six attempts at 1.97m was probably Jungmark’s second. Thanks to fewer failures the Swede managed to finish second with the reigning Olympic champion in third.
Chicherova made it 5-out-of-5 for competitions at 2m+ this winter by clearing 2.00m and then asked for the bar to be raised to 2.04m, i.e. 1 cm above Kajsa Bergqvist’s arena record set nine years ago (with Chicherova in 2nd at 2.01m!). Chicherova ran under the bar in her first attempt, had a decent second attempt and was very, very close with her third.
Arena records by James and Saladuha
So the Arena record in that event survived but it didn’t fall only in the Pole Vault but also in two other events.
In the men’s 400m favourite Kirani James was outsmarted by super-experienced Chris Brown in the first lap and ended up second at 200m behind Brown who went by in 21.3. James of course did come back in the second lap, reached the front in the middle of the backstretch and then just pulled away in his characteristic fashion to win by over one second in 45.52, 0.41 faster than the previous arena record set 12 years ago.
In the women’s Triple Jump the Arena record was even older (14.65m from 1996) and it was under constant threat from Olha Saladuha, Yargelis Savigne and Yamilé Aldama. But it did hold out until the very last jump when Saladuha put all three phases together in a smooth fashion to land at 14.79m. It was also just five centimetres from the world leading mark of the year by Olga Rypakova.
Fast times challenging the 2012 top marks were expected in the men’s 800m, 1500m and 3000m but didn’t quite materialise for various reasons.
In the 800m because favourite and World list leader Adam Kszczot surprisingly ran out of gas at the end after having followed the pacesetter through a 24.2/50.6 opening. Taking advantage of the opportunity that opened up was Ethiopia’s Mohamed Aman who won in 1:45.84. From far back in the field Yuriy Borzakovskiy stormed through on the last lap to very narrowly miss getting his ninth top-2 finish in nine starts at this meet since 2002.
In the 1500m the pace set slackened too much in the middle of the race (1:58.4 between 400m and 1200m). But a blistering last lap of 26.1 still brought Ilham Özbilen and Bethwel Birgen down to times just below and just above 3:35. In the last fortnight Özbilen and Birgen both have run four races at 3:34-3:36.
The 3000m also featured a major speed-up in the closing stages. A large group of about ten runners – all from Kenya or Ethiopia – moved together through the first two kilometre in 2:32.6/2:34.3. With two laps to go the favourite Augustine Choge begun winding it up but in the last 100m tall junior Isiah Koech launched a finish neither Choge nor someone else could match.
The finish in numbers: Last 1500m 3:42, last 1000m 2:26, last 800m 1:56, last 400m 56.0 and the last 200m 27.0 Thanks to that acceleration the winner Koech ended up missing his less than two weeks old World Junior Indoor Record from Liévin by merely 0.66 seconds running 7:33.55.
A junior taking the top honours looked very likely also in the women’s 1500m through Ethiopia’s Tizita Bogale. But in the last lap she was passed by Morgan Uceny of the US who herself had to surrender the lead just before the finish to Moroccan Btissam Lakhouad. Then a very late burst finished by a dive over the finish line still almost gave a resurging Bogale the win. Lakhouad barely escaped: 4:07.86 vs 4:07.88.
Antonina Krivoshapka brought the experience to the women’s 400m but the late-blooming Jamaican Patricia Hall still did challenge – and did so successfully. The Russian was passed in the closing stage and Hall lowered her PB to 51.66. Local favourite Moa Hjelmer was in third place all the way, defeated Svetlana Usovich (Belarus) and by lowering her PB by over half a second barely (0.03 seconds) missed the national record of 52.40 set 26 years ago by Ann-Louise Skoglund at the European Indoor Championships in Madrid.
But the Stockholm fans also got the opportunity to cheer for a local winner as Long Jumper Michel Tornéus triumphed for the second year in a row. This time it was a very tight competition as Tornéus reached 7.99m while both Ignisious Gaisah in 2nd and Luis Felipe Meliz in 3rd ended up at 7.98m.
The main event on the sprint straight – Liu Xiang vs Dayron Robles at 60m Hurdles – ended with a massive anticlimax as the favourite Liu inexplicably false started in a blatant fashion. That seemed to take away the competition urge from Robles who just went through the motions sufficiently fast to win the race in a – for the Cuban – rather mediocre time (7.67).
The women’s 60m however, did offer an exciting competition, albeit at a slightly lower level. Ukrainian training partners Maria Ryemyen and Olesya Povh had another very close dual ending with Ryemyen winning by three hundredths (7.17 vs 7.20). In six meets this year the score now stands at 3-3 with the largest internal margin time-wise being 0.05.
But despite all this the evening of course belonged to Isinbayeva thanks to her 5.01 vault. A performance that further enhanced the reputation of the Globe Arena as some kind of a Mecca for the women’s Pole Vault: After Nicole Humbert’s 4.56m in 1999 and Svetlana Feofanova’s 4.72m in 2002 this was the third time the senior World Indoor record has been improved at this meet and to that should be added Angelica Bengtsson’s three World Junior records set a year ago.
A. Lennart Julin for the IAAF
* Pending the usual ratification procedures