Australia’s Vicky Parnov was arguably the athlete with the most experience coming into the 5th IAAF World Youth Championships here in Ostrava and eventually she did deliver her country’s first gold medal of the week but her path towards her first global title was everything but an easy road.
At 16 years of age, Parnov had already competed in an amazing two World Championships, the Youth in Marrakech 2005 (fourth) and the Junior in Beijing 2006 (third), and last year’s Commonwealth Games (sixth) on home soil in Melbourne, before making her entrance in the Vitkovice Arena for the qualification round of the Girls Pole Vault.
Parnov, who was born in Moscow and moved to Australia with her parents and younger sister Liz had already had a taste of the Ostrava stadium when she competed in the Golden Spike meeting last 27 June where coming off the plane from a long journey from Australia she no heighted.
“The starting height was 4.20m and my PB back then was 4.30m!” said Parnov of her first experience on the IAAF World Athletics Tour.
However, the Ostrava Golden Spike tour gave her the chance to meet and compete against her role model World record holder Yenela Isinbayeva whose career she would like to replicate.
Qualification round scare
It looked as though history was going to repeat itself when opening at 3.95m in Thursday’s qualification round; Parnov had two failures and was left with only one last chance.
“At my first attempt I didn’t push on my pole, my second one was too close and the third one was so unbelievable lucky. I still don’t know how I managed to clear the bar,” reflected Parnov.
With her father and coach Alex watching from the stands, Parnov was determined she wouldn’t repeat the same mistakes in the final. She cleared 3.95m, 4.05m, 4.15m and 4.20m with her first attempts and when it looked that gold was secured that was in fact when the real competition started.
Tough challenge from Stefanidi
Defending champion Ekaterini Stefanidi who was looking to become the third athlete ever to retain her World Youth title had a first time clearance at a season’s best 4.25m and with Parnov making her first mistake of the day at that height, the Greek was suddenly and unexpectedly in the lead.
Needless to say, only Parnov and Stefanidi were left in the competition at that stage and as the bar was raised at a Championship record height 4.30m it was going to be the girl with the strongest nerves to win.
Jumping first Parnov missed her opening attempt but Stefanidi could not take advantage of the Asutralian’s mistake as she herself failed.
Parnov’s clearance at the second attempt proved to be the decisive jump as Stefanidi failed and then had a third time failure at 4.35m in a desperate attempt to regain the lead.
Already the champion, Parnov secured the outright Championship record with a third time effort at 4.35m but had no resources left when the bar was raised at a would be World Youth best 4.41m.
First gold in Family collection
“I am so so happy,” said Parnov after receiving the first World gold medal of her career. “It was such a hard competition and I am so glad that it turned out just the way it did.”
“I just feel as though I have worked really hard to get this medal, it certainly didn’t come that easy which make it taste even better,” she added.
Parnov is still not sure what the rest of the summer will hold for her. “I may not go back to Australia straight away; I am waiting to see if I can get invited to a couple of meets.”
Parnov’s gold medal adds to her family collection which includes her aunt’s Tatyana Grigorieva 2000 Olympic Pole Vaut silver medal and her grandmother’s Natalya Pechonkina 1968 Olympic 400m bronze medal.
According to Australian team leaders, the family tradition should continue with 12-year-old Liz who has already cleared 3.65 metres despite her young age.
“I also have two-and-a-half year old twin sisters. Maybe they will also pick up athletics!” concluded Parnov with the smile of a champion.
Laura Arcoleo for the IAAF