Anna Chicherova at the pre-meet press conference in Brussels (Bob Ramsak) © Copyright
"I hope that everything will be ok. I’ll be so happy if I have a chance to jump like last year, where I tried to jump 2.10," the 30-year-old Russian said, speaking to a crowded press conference room this morning. "My shape is not so perfect, but I’ll try it. I’ll be very happy to have a chance to try it, to even reach that stage tomorrow."
Chicherova fondly recalls last year’s Memorial van Damme competition, one she won at 2.05m before ending with her first-ever attempts at a would-be 2.10m World record. There wasn’t too much missing between her best attempts and the 2.09m standard that has stood since 1987.
"Before last year, I thought (the World record) was too high, too hard. But after last year I was so inspired with my attempts here. That gave me so much motivation for this year."
But Chicherova now concedes that the ambitions spurred on by those leaps in Brussels contributed to a classic case of "overdoing it", both in training and in competition which in turn led to injuries that dogged her much of this year. Upon reflection, she believes that it will be best to skip the next indoor season to avoid a replay of a same scenario.
"I must do something different for next year, because it caused me too many problems."
Those problems, more specifically an injury that spread from one side of her back to the other, were very difficult to overcome as the London Games approached, she said.
"After (the World Indoor Championships in) Istanbul everything changed," she said, referring to when the stubborn back pains began. "I had more difficulties. The injury I had there changed everything. I didn’t think that my Olympic preparation would be so hard. To tell you the truth, I can’t understand how (the Olympic victory) even happened."
Inconsistencies in training and competition, coupled with the unpredictable back pains, often left her in tears and her characteristic self-confidence in tatters.
"It was so hard," she said. "I was crying a lot. I had no confidence like last year. (London) was the first time that I was scared and nervous before a qualification round."
She battled through and in her third Olympic appearance won her first title with a second attempt clearance at 2.05m.
"Of course it’s so nice to finally reach your goal, your dream. I’m just so happy because my wait was so long and so hard." Among the perks for that patience was a new Audi 8 awarded by the Russian government to all London gold medal winners.
With most titles available to her now in her collection, Chicherova will now focus on jumping higher that her 2.07m leap from last year that tied her as history’s third highest jumper.
"It will be my new motivation for the immediate future. I’ll be really happy and glad to get in the kind of shape that gives me the chance to jump that high, or try to jump that high again."
Chicherova knows that those sorts of opportunities are rare.
"I only jumped at 2.10 in one meeting, in Brussels last year," she said. "And I’ve only tried 2.08 in Cheboksary, with three attempts, and also once in Stockholm."
"But I don’t think it matters how many times you try it. Of course if you did it more times, perhaps maybe it’s easier to try to beat it. But last year, I tried to jump 2.10, never having tried it before. And it was not so bad."
There’s also something special in the air, literally and figuratively she believes, once she begins scaling the rarest heights.
"There’s a difference for me at 2.02," she said. "After 2.02, jumps are something special. You go on a different line. There are different feelings when you’re jumping 2.03, 2.04, 2.05 and 2.06, and more. It’s just different." But, she adds with a laugh, "If you’ve never tried it, it’ll be hard for you to understand."
For her part she understands that expectations can be high, and hopes to do what she can to live up to the expectations heaped upon her as the Olympic champion.
"I’ve been preparing, but it’ a hard time I think for all Olympic champions and medallists, because we have more media demands, more press conferences. So it’s a little hard for our training schedules."
She also knows that anything is possible, particularly with the large weight of the Olympics now off of her shoulders.
"Last year I didn’t assume that it’s possible to jump 2.05. It was the last competition of the season and to do that and then jump at 2.10, so high a height, it wasn’t something you plan for."
"And this year I think it’s an interesting moment. You’re feeling a sense of freedom, and you’re jumping with joy everyday. I think all the competitors feel the same. Sometimes the results, the best results are after the major competitions. We’ll see."
Bob Ramsak for the IAAF