Berlin, GermanyOn the eve of the final leg of the IAAF Golden League, the DKB-ISTAF Berlin meeting, which incidentally also celebrates its 70th anniversary, the two remaining contenders for the US$ 1 Million Jackpot, Sanya Richards and Yelena Isinbayeva look and sound extremely confident and eagerly impatient to tackle the last step of their three-month Golden League quest.
Winners of the five previous meetings, the latest of which less than 24 hours ago the American 400m record holder and the Pole Vault World champion look set for sharing the biggest prize money athletics has to offer.
Toughest race of the year for Richards
22-year-old Richards who has had her share of ups and downs in 2007 admitted Berlin’s race is probably likely to be her hardest Golden League outing this year.
“This by far is the best field assembled all year,” said Richards referring to Berlin’s starting lists which include all the Osaka medallists. “Last year in Berlin I ran one of my best races so I hope tomorrow I will be lucky again on the blue track.”
Should she succeed in defeating all her competitors tomorrow, Richards would become only the third athlete ever to win a share of more than one Golden League Jackpot after she remained undefeated in last year’s circuit along with training partner Jeremy Wariner and Asafa Powell.
“Even though this is my second time competing for the Jackpot, it didn’t get any easier. It’s definitely been tougher this season than last year. I’ve been training really well all year and after Osaka I was really looking forward to competing in Zurich and Brussels.”
“You do think about the money,” Richards honestly admitted. “It is obviously a huge incentive and therefore it’s always in the back of your mind.”
“Winning the Jackpot would mean a lot to me. Although I had some illnesses I’ve been training very hard and it’s been very disappointing when I’ve put so much effort into it to not run fast races. Winning would mean that it’s all been worth it after all.”
Talking about World champion Christine Ohuruogu, “she has proven she’s a tough competitor. She was tired in Zurich and that’s why she took a break so she could come back stronger and put a great race together tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow will be the toughest test for me,” Sanya explained. “My problem this year has been recovery through the rounds. In Osaka, after the first round I knew I didn’t have it but here today my body feels good and if my body feels good I know I’ll run fast times!”
I'm Isinbayeva! My rival is myself
Although her personal best and World record stands almost 15 centimetres above that of any other competitors in the women’s Pole Vault, Isinbayeva has had more trouble than expected in her last two Golden League outings where she only just managed to remain undefeated.
“Zurich was difficult because I was tired after Osaka. It was hard, I didn’t feel fresh and my mind was tired. It was a bad competition and I almost lost. Brussels felt better. I had fun there and I was confident. I’m happy with my victory and now I feel great.”
Although she won it “only” on count-back over compatriot and World bronze medallist Svetlana Feofanova, Isinbayeva is not the least worried about her opponents.
“I don't care about the others. As usual my strongest rival will be myself. It doesn’t matter who is there, I will only concentrate on myself. Because I am Isinbayeva!” she boosted.
“I will try to win and set World records all my life, not just in 2007 or 2008. And I am confident that the World record will happen soon!”
Isinbayeva hasn’t lost a Pole Vault final since the Stockholm DN Galan meeting last 25 July 2006 where she came second to Poland’s Monika Pyrek.
She also no heighted on 30 August 2006 in Warsaw but that was because she decided not to take any jumps in the appalling and dangerous weather conditions that night.
Laura Arcoleo for the IAAF