Updated 29 July 2008
Fabiana de Almeida MURER, Brazil (Pole Vault)
Born 16 March 1981, Campinas, Brazil
Lives in Sao Paulo
Coach: Elson Miranda de Souza
Club: Clube de Atletismo BM&F (BM&F Athletics Club)
Fabiana Murer and Pole Vault World record holder Yelena Isinbayeva wanted to be Olympic gymnasts but they were so tall that they could not perform well enough. The Russian star explained that in a TV commercial, the one that Murer knows very well. “I couldn’t believe when I first watched it - it was exactly the same story I’d experienced when I was a little girl”, she recalled.
Early in 2007, during a training camp at Aosta, Italy, both athletes talked about that. “I like remembering those times,” Murer said. “We learnt a lot from each other. For example, that we had started Pole Vault exactly at the same time, but thousands of kilometres away.”
Now Murer enjoys being a top pole vaulter and competing against the world’s best performers, including Isinbayeva. She cannot believe how her life has changed since her father, Vanderlei, read a Campinas club’s ad in the newspaper asking for athletes. He almost pushed Fabiana to go there, where she finally met her coach, Elson Miranda de Souza, a former Brazilian Pole Vault champion (PB 5.02).
Immediately, because of her build, he suggested that she try the Pole Vault. She moved from Campinas to Sao Paulo, one of the biggest cities in the world, to train at BM&F Athletics club. “It was really difficult for me,” she recalled. “I was only 18 and I didn’t know how to survive in such a big metropolis.” At Campinas, she left her father, her mother, Neusa (a very good swimmer who still competes at Masters level), her younger sisters, Fernanda and Flavia, and the pictures of her favourite American gymnasts.
This sacrifice, combined with hard work, finally produced results. Murer won three consecutive South American junior titles (1998-2000), reaching a PB 3.90 in 2000. Brazil expected a lot from her as she entered senior level but suddenly she was unable to improve any more.
“There were two main aspects that affected my jumps,” Murer explained. “The first one was that I started to study physiotherapy, so I didn’t have enough time to practise. The second one was that Vitaly Petrov (Sergey Bubka’s former coach) recommended me to change completely my technique during a training camp”.
Murer began studying physiotherapy in 2000 and got her degree in 2004, but has never worked professionally. “I always loved physiotherapy when I was very young,” she said. “As I hurt myself many times while I practised gymnastics, I felt interested in how to take care of my body.”
At the same time, she committed to following Petrov’s advice, but it took her almost two years to change. “Vitaly changed everything about my jump: how I caught the pole, the way I ran, the technique over the bar. I trusted him because I had seen Bubka’s videos, and discovered that it was the way I had to jump”.
On the other hand, although she was very young, the Brazilian authorities thought she was about to retire. “I didn’t care about that, because I knew that when I finished studying, I’d be able to apply all the new knowledge over the track and I’d jump very high”, she said.
Murer was right. In 2003, she cleared the 4 metres barrier for the first time. In 2004, she improved her PB to 4.25, but she could not go to the Olympics Games, in Athens, because the Brazilian Confederation asked her to achieve it twice. In 2005, she jumped 4.40, a Brazilian record, and claimed her ticket for the World Championships, in Helsinki. During qualification in Finland, she repeated her PB, but was unable to make the final. “When I was watching the final, I promised myself that I’d fight for the medals in the next World Championships”, she recalled.
In 2006, Murer exploded onto the international circuit. She broke the South American record with 4.55. At the Herculis meeting, in Monaco, she defeated Poland’s Monica Pyrek and increased her PB to 4.66. “Monica is one of the top pole vaulters, but for me she is one of my best friends”, Murer said.
Fabiana was notorious in Monaco not only for her victory but for the sunglasses she used to wear in competition. “It’s a funny situation,” she said. “A friend of my coach has a sunglasses company. She invited me to use them when I didn’t have any sponsor and I accepted”.
In 2007, Murer established her South American indoor record (4.66), the same mark as outdoors, and a PB that she had achieved three times up to that moment. “My father was worried about that mark,” she laughed. “As it was a very unusual standard, he was afraid that it may be an unlucky number. But I felt confident that I would jump higher. I don’t know how many centimetres, but higher for sure”.
In July, she won the Pan American Games, in Rio de Janeiro (4.60), in front of a big crowd that cheered her every jump. “It was an amazing experience,” Murer said. “I still receive messages regarding that victory.” A few weeks later, she kept the promise she made in Helsinki 2005 and reached the World Championships final in Osaka. She jumped 4.65 and finished sixth, only one centimetre below her personal best.
At the beginning of 2008, Petrov invited Murer to join some training sessions in Donetsk, Bubka’s city. She has been unable to take part in many competitions during the indoor season because it was too difficult for her to leave Ukraine and to catch the flights with the poles. Anyway, she jumped 4.52 in Donetsk and was second in Aubière, France, with 4.61, the same mark as Isinbayeva, finishing second to the Russian. “I’m very happy because I almost jumped 4.71, I made a great attempt,” Murer said then. “Now, I’m very confident for the World Indoor Championships.”
In Valencia, she succeeded in achieving her best performance, sharing the bronze medal with Pyrek with a jump of 4.70, her outright PB (indoors and out). Fortunately, the spell that her father was afraid of was broken...
However, Murer did not stop improving her jumps. Throughout the outdoor season she won Trofeo Brasil, in Sao Paulo, with an astonishing 4.80, reaching seventh place in the All- Time lists. Although she will take part in the Olympic Games for the first time in Beijing, she said: “This mark and my performance in Valencia let me dream of a medal”. During July, she consistently took part in different events and managed to reach 4.64 or higher in four tournaments.
Murer has been gaining not only good results, but fame as well in Brazil, so she was asked to model for product advertising and magazine shoots. But now she wants to focus on athletics. In the meantime, going to the movies, or watching gymnastics on TV, are her interests away from athletics as she is not especially disposed towards time spent at parties or dancing.
4.80 (2008); 4.70i (2008)
1998: 3.66; 1999: 3.81; 2000: 3.90; 2001: 3.91; 2002: 3.70; 2003: 4.06; 2004: 4.25; 2005: 4.40; 2006: 4.66; 2007: 4.65/4.66i; 2008: 4.80 AR/4.70i AR
1998 1st South American Junior Championships (Córdoba) 3.52
q World Junior Championships (Annecy) 3.65
1999 3rd South American Championships (Bogotá) 3.70
2nd Pan American Junior Championships (Tampa) 3.70
9th Pan American Games (Winnipeg) 3.50
1st South American Junior Championships (Concepción) 3.70
2000 5th Ibero American Championships (Rio de Janeiro) 3.70
1st South American Junior Championships (São Leopoldo) 3.75
10th World Junior Championships (Santiago) 3.70
2001 6th South American Championships (Manaus) 3.70
2004 8th Ibero American Championships (Huelva) 3.90
2005 2nd South American Championships (Cali) 4.00
q World Championships (Helsinki) 4.40
2006 q World Indoor Championships (Moscow) 4.35
1st Ibero American Championships (Ponce) 4.56
5th World Athletics Final (Stuttgart) 4.50
2nd World Cup (Athens) 4.55
1st South American Championships (Tunja) 4.47
2007 1st South American Championships (São Paulo) 4.50
1st Pan American Games (Rio de Janeiro) 4.60
6th World Championships (Osaka) 4.65
2008 3rd World Indoor Championships (Valencia) 4.70
1st Trofeo Brasil (São Paulo) 4.80
Prepared by Víctor Pochat for the IAAF ‘Focus on Athletes’ project. Copyright IAAF 2008