Berlin, GermanyThe global media spotlight fell on Ariane Friedrich here this afternoon as she completed a long session of television and radio interviews in the bowels of the Olympic Stadium only to find, several floors up, a packed press room of more than 50 German and international journalists seeking her response to an extraordinary day.
Having broken Heike Henkel’s 18-year-old German women’s High Jump record, and beaten Croatian World champion Blanka Vlasic, Friedrich said that she was proud to follow in Henkel’s footsteps, that she hoped her victory in the DKB- ISTAF opening round of the ÅF Golden League would be a boost for German athletics and for the World Championships in Berlin in August, and that she was not disappointed to only narrowly have missed equalling the World record.
Asked to describe the competition, in which she passed at several heights while Vlasic continued to jump, Friedrich said: “It is really difficult to describe. I would say it was ‘wow’. Gunter (Eisinger, her coach) and I played a mean game today. We started at 1.93m then went to 2.00m. My philosophy is that the more heights you jump the more mistakes you can commit so I always try to go as high as possible as fast as possible. Right now I really feel the self-confidence and I feel that, if I do fewer jumps, I will not give all my power straight away.
“The Golden League is not for nothing, it is about $1m – not for me but for others. What I really wanted to do was make a statement for Berlin in two months time and also a statement for German athletics.”
Clarifying her comment about the Golden League being not for her but for others, Friedrich said that the jackpot was not in her sights as she intended to compete in the Universiade (World University Games) in Belgrade, which coincide with the Golden League, in Oslo.
On new national record - 'Every kid knows Heike Henkel, not every kid knows Ariane Friedrich'
Had Friedrich sensed that she might perform so brilliantly today? “I had a very good Easter training phase and the indoor season went very well, so we knew that good results would be possible,” she said. “But there can always be a difference between what you know is possible and what can happen in the end.
“I was really happy to jump a German record. I had never been thinking about jumping it. Heike Henkel held the record for such a long time and she is a real idol in Germany. Every kid knows Heike Henkel, not every kid knows Ariane Friedrich, so I am l really proud of being a little bit her successor. It will be difficult to be a full successor but that is something I will try to do.
“Also, I want to try to make High Jump interesting again, to interest our kids, and make them interested not only in the High Jump but also athletics. I also want to raise the interest and enthusiasm for the World Championships.”
2.06, a height to be 'appreciated'
With the competition won, Friedrich had a near miss at equalling the 2.09m World record held by Bulgaria’s Stefka Kostadinova since 1987. Having cleared the bar with her torso, she brushed it off with her leg. But this was a day for celebration, not frustration, the German insisted.
“It is not about wanting more and more,” Friedrich said. “I did not make the World record today but I jumped 2.06, I made a new German record and I think it is a height that should be appreciated. I’m not going to talk about more, about the World record. I am very proud about the German record. I don’t need to get even more right away.”
Asked whether she thought that she had the advantage now over Vlasic for the World Championships, Friedrich replied: “We will see. Not all eyes should be on Blanka. Each jumper has the potential to jump high. We had some good competition today. I had a great day but I’m sure there are going to be worse days.
“The goal for the World Championships is the final, then a medal. Which medal it is going to be we will have to see then. It is just really a lot of fun to compete with her. She is getting the best out of me and that is why it is fun and I enjoy it.”
David Powell for the IAAF