With World Record holder Stacy Dragila having shockingly failed to reach the final, former standard-bearer Svetlana Feofanova figured to have her way with the women's pole vault field. She did, and she did it with a big exclamation point, reclaiming the WR from her American rival.
The 22-year-old Russian didn't pull clear of the field for good until the sixth height of the day, however. Not surprisingly, she passed at the opening height of 4.20. She made routine first-try clearances at both 4.35 and 4.45, then struck a bit of a rough patch when she needed a pair at 4.55.
Fellow Russian Yelena Isinbayeva cleared 4.55 on her first, so she was actually in the lead as the bar went to 4.60 with the teammates being the only ones left in the competition. When each cleared on first attempt Feofanova moved into a tie for 1st, as Isinbayeva had had a miss back at 4.20.
Feofanova decidedly had the advantage when the bar moved to 4.65. While such a clearance would equal Isinbayeva's all-time best, it was a height Feofanova had already mastered in four other meets this year.
Predictably, Feofanova sailed clear on her first attempt, while Isinbayeva missed. With no hope of winning at that height, Isinbayeva had no choice but to pass her final attempts and use them at 4.70. The only thing wrong with that plan was that Feofanova, jumping first in the order, promptly soared over again. Plan B: Isinbayeva passes 4.70 completely. Then, when Feofanova cleared 4.75, Isinbayeva realized she was in so far over her head--both literally and figuratively--that she essayed the height twice, not coming remotely close.
Then it was time for Feofanova to try to reclaim her World Record. Rather than going for a single centimeter's rise over Dragila's best of 4.78, she elected to try 4.80. After an artificially long wait unfortunately induced by a victory ceremony delay, she finally got back on the way.
Her first try wasn't close. Initially, the second didn't seem to be either, as she smacked the bar solidly, but after a few moments of marked wiggling the bar settled and the WR was back in her hands.
Slow-motion replay from the mini-cam mounted atop the standards later showed the incredible sequence of events which led to the bar's staying on after what seemed to be such a solid hit. Her thigh actually begins to dislodge the crosspiece on the way down, but before it can slide off the pegs, her chest hits it from the opposite direction, setting things aright. Not against the rules, and a few minutes later she's $50,000 richer as she receives a World Record bonus cheque from vaulting legend Sergey Bubka on behalf of the IAAF.