Updated 3 August 2008
Monika PYREK, Poland (Pole Vault)
Born 11 August 1980, Gdynia
1.68m / 52 kg
Coach: Vyacheslav Kalinichenko (Ukraine)
Club: MKL Szczecin
Not for 10 years has Monika Pyrek lost at the National Championships. She has also gathered a big collection of medals on the international scene. However, although she has been among the pioneers of women’s Pole Vault in Poland, her first speciality was the High Jump.
Pyrek changed her mind when Anna Wielgus, another athlete in the Athletic Club Gdynia, decided to start pole vaulting. Wielgus was the only competitor to defeat Pyrek at the Nationals - in 1998, in Wroclaw, when they both cleared 4.00 metres - but her sports career is already over.
Both athletes practised the newly introduced event under direction of Edward Szymczak, who coached the best male pole vaulters of the country earlier. His pupils – Marian Kolasa (5.81) and Miroslaw Chmara (5.90) - were for some time the main rivals of Sergey Bubka.
More than two decades ago Szymczak started a Pole Vault competition on the long pier at the seaside resort of Sopot. At the very beginning, two Polish Olympic champions, Tadeusz Slusarski (Olympic champion 1976) and Wladyslaw Kozakiewicz (Olympic champion 1980) took part in this original meeting. Then came the girls and one of them was Pyrek, who once competed in Sopot with Stacy Dragila of the United States.
Pyrek’s sporting breakthrough came at the 2000 Olympic Games, in Sydney, where, aged only 20, she placed seventh. Dragila won the gold medal, as she did at the 1999 and 2001 World Championships, but soon the American had to accept the change in the international hierarchy. Yelena Isinbayeva, of Russia, began to dominate and Pyrek, who took the bronze medal at the 2001 World Championships, in Edmonton, went on to record her top achievement four years later, gaining the silver at the World Championships, in Helsinki. It was important for Pyrek after she had taken only fourth place at the 2004 Olympic Games, in Athens, being surprisingly overshadowed by her compatriot, Anna Rogowska, the bronze medal winner. Becoming a World runner-up, Pyrek regained her leadership among Polish vaulters
In 2003 Pyrek separated from her first coach, Edward Szymczak, and moved from Gdynia to Szczecin, another seaside city. “I’m a sailor’s daughter, so I like to stay very close to the sea,” said the vaulter who has won eight national titles, including the last one from Szczecin. Pyrek’s new coach is Viacheslav Kalinichenko, of Ukraine, who has resided in Poland with his family for many years.
Pyrek graduated from Gdansk University with a Masters in law. In the future she plans to be employed in one of the European Union offices. She has become a celebrity, starring on TV. She even tries to sing. A few months ago she recorded an Olympic song which she performs together with a professional vocalist, Maria Sadowska.
Pyrek lives in Szczecin, with her sweetheart Norbert Rokita, who is an athletics manager. Once a year she invites some top women vaulters to take part in a street competition held just under the windows of her apartment.
4.82 (2007); 4.76i (2006)
1995: 2.30; 1996: 3.60; 1997: 3.83; 1998: 4.15; 1999: 4.16/4.21i; 2000: 4.40; 2001: 4.61; 2002: 4.62; 2003: 4.60; 2004: 4.72; 2005: 4.70; 2006: 4.75/4.76i; 2007: 4.82; 2008: 4.75
1997 q European Junior Championships (Ljubljana) 3.80
1998 2nd World Junior Championships (Annecy) 4.10
1998 7th European Championships (Budapest) 4.15
1999 11th World Indoor Championships (Maebashi) 4.20
1999 4th European Junior Championships (Riga) 4.10
2000 q European Indoor Championships (Gent) 4.20
2000 1st European Cup-1 (Bydgoszcz) 4.30
2000 7th Olympic Games (Sydney) 4.40
2001 1st European Cup-1 (Vaasa) 4.50
2001 1st European Under-23 Championships (Amsterdam) 4.40
2001 3rd World Championships (Edmonton) 4.55
2001 4th Goodwill Games (Brisbane) 4.35
2001 4th Grand Prix Final (Melbourne) 4.20
2002 3rd European Indoor Championships (Vienna) 4.60
2002 4th European Cup, Super League (Annecy) 4.20
2002 q European Championships (Munich) 4.30
2003 3rd European Indoor Cup (Leipzig) 4.30
2003 3rd World Indoor Championships (Birmingham) 4.45
2003 1st European Cup-1 (Lappeenranta) 4.30
2003 4th World Championships (Paris) 4.55
2003 4th World Athletics Final (Monaco) 4.50
2004 5th World Indoor Championships (Budapest) 4.50
2004 2nd European Cup, Super League (Bydgoszcz) 4.40
2004 4th Olympic Games (Athens) 4.55
2004 5th World Athletics Final (Monaco) 4.50
2005 3rd European Indoor Championships (Madrid) 4.70
2005 2nd World Championships (Helsinki) 4.60
2005 2nd World Athletics Final (Monaco) 4.62
2006 4th World Indoor Championships (Moscow) 4.65
2006 1st European Cup, Super League (Malaga) 4.75
2006 2nd European Championships (Göteborg) 4.65
2006 2nd World Athletics Final (Stuttgart) 4.65
2007 1st European Cup, Super League (Munich) 4.65
2007 4th World Championships (Osaka) 4.75
2007 2nd World Athletics Final (Stuttgart) 4.82
2008 3rd World Indoor Championships (Valencia) 4.70