Daegu, KoreaIt was World record holder Yelena Isinbayeva who attracted the lion’s share of attention when the women’s Pole Vault competition got underway Tuesday night. But it was Fabiana Murer who stole the limelight and the gold medal.
The Brazilian star cleared 4.85m. Though it’s too early to completely write off the Russian the event has a new face and a new champion.
“I was prepared for these championships, I had good training,” Murer offered journalists. “I was very confident that it was possible to jump 4.80m. Then the event got more competitive. Many athletes went out early and I thought I had to jump 4.85 or 4.90 to get the gold medal.
“I just thought about the jump I had to do and the technique. When the German (Martina Strutz) jumped 4.80m I knew I had to jump this high if I want the gold medal. But I couldn’t do it on the first attempt, not because of a mistake in the jump, but because I had to change the pole - use a more stiff pole. It was right to do because I cleared 4.80m on the second attempt. But I knew if I wanted gold I had to clear 4.85m which is my best mark. I did it and I am happy.”
Naturally she was in a celebratory mood when she left the infield and faced reporters long after the stadium had emptied of spectators. Her coach Elson De Souza was among the first to greet her, interrupting a radio interview with a hug. Nobody minded. Murer has much for which to thank De Souza.
A former pole vaulter himself he sought out Vitaliy Petrov the legendary coach of Sergei Bubka and Isinbayeva 11 years ago telling him he wanted to learn everything he knew about the Pole Vault. In the course of their relationship Petrov has visited Brazil many times while De Souza and Murer have spent long spells training with Isinbayeva in Formia, Italy. The athletes have become friends so it was with compassion that Murer viewed the two-time Olympic champion’s plight in Daegu.
“Yes of course, it is difficult for her,” Murer concedes. “She didn’t have a good year because she changed her coach and changed the technique and everything is difficult when you first change. You need some time to adjust. I believe in her and I think she can continue jumping next year.”
Over the past few years she has learned much from Isinbayeva. Clearly she admires the Russian and all she has achieved. Who doesn’t? But she saw up close things that led her to play to her own strengths.
“When I met her for the first time I thought she was a person who doesn’t have feelings, that she is brave, she can jump anytime, she is strong but then when I started to speak with her I learned she is a normal person,” Murer contends. “Then I thought, if she jumps and she is a normal person then it’s possible if I continue to train I can improve. I tried to do my best and of course she was more strong and she was faster. I tried to get closer to her but I know my limits. I am not so strong and not so fast. So I tried to improve my technique because of this.”
Tonight’s jump equalled her personal best which is also the South American record. Having achieved this mark twice in her career she has other goals in mind. Only Isinbayeva has cleared 5 metres. She would like to be the next.
“Five metres is my dream,” she says with a broad smile. “I want to jump 5m but of course it is not easy. It is very hard. It is high, 5m. I think it’s possible. I did a good attempt at 4.90m tonight. I think it’s real now and maybe five metres next year.”
Murer was born in Campinas a city about one hour from Sao Paulo. As a child she took up gymnastics and competed in provincial competitions. Then she was introduced to pole vault and eventually met De Souza. At the age of 16 she moved to Sao Paulo to train with the new coach.
At first the facilities weren’t the greatest but as the training group grew to six athletes, including Fabio Gomes da Silva, 8th in the men’s pole vault final Monday night, sponsors came forward. With other help from the government they were able to build a proper facility. As news of her victory is trumpeted across Brazil she believes further change can be implemented.
“I think it’s very important for athletics,” she says of her latest achievement. “Pole vault is growing in Brazil. Some years ago nobody knew what pole vault was and now they do. Some girls in gymnastics do the pole vault now because I did gymnastics before and now they want to switch from gymnastics to pole vault.”
Murer has two more competitions, in Zurich and Brussels, before returning home to train for a month. Then she leaves for the 2011 Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico. In addition to her 2010 World indoor and now the 2011 World outdoor titles she is the defending Pan Am champion.
If it seems like she is always on the go it’s not far from the truth. But unlike some, she is not afraid to take off a little time to relax.
“I like to stay home to watch movies, or go to the swimming pool or to the beach,” she explains. “I like to visit my family because I live in Sao Paolo and my family lives in a city one hour away in Campinas. They have a house in the country where I can go to relax.”
A new face, a new star is born.
Paul Gains for the IAAF