Silke Spiegelburg of Germany in action in the Pole Vault final (Getty Images) © Copyright
She failed to register a height at both the 2009 World Championships and the 2010 World Indoors. The disappointments led to her taking a self-enforced hiatus and she returned for the World Championships last year, but could only finish sixth.
Isinbayeva looked better during the indoor season this year, setting a World indoor record of 5.01m and winning the World Indoor title. She has only competed twice outdoors though – clearing 4.75m to win in Sotteville, followed by a no-height at the Monaco Diamond League. She looked less than convincing in that competition as she failed three times at her opening height of 4.70m.
Needless to say, Isinbayeva has now lost her air of invincibility and although she is still clearly a gold medal contender, she is not the odds-on favourite she was ahead of the past two Olympics.
Silke Spiegelburg enjoyed a confidence-boosting win at the Monaco Diamond League to set a German record of 4.82m, the best mark in the world this summer. She was scheduled to compete in Jockgrim a few days later, but suffered a minor injury in warm-up. However, she insists that it’s nothing serious and she will be fit to compete at the Games.
USA’s Jenn Suhr took silver behind Isinbayeva in Beijing four years ago. The second highest vaulter in history with a PB of 4.92m, Suhr is undefeated this year and set a season’s best of 4.81m in July. But the 30-year-old is often below her best at major outdoor championships and finished outside the medals at last year’s World Championships.
Winner on that occasion was Brazil’s Fabiana Murer, who equalled her Area Record to take gold with 4.85m. This year she has won in Eugene and New York, posting a season’s best of 4.77m – higher than her pre-Daegu season’s best from last year. She only finished fifth in Monaco recently, but can be expected to be on form when it matters in London.
British hopes will be resting on the young shoulders of Holly Bleasdale. At thea start of the year the 20-year-old cleared 4.87m – the fourth-highest vault in history – and went on to take bronze at the World Indoors. She set an outdoor PB of 4.71m in June and finished third in Monaco against quality opposition.
Commonwealth champion Alana Boyd set a big PB of 4.76m during the Australian season in February and looks to be peaking again, based on the evidence of her 4.63m victory in Jockgrim.
Jirina Ptacnikova is another in-form athlete. The Czech vaulter has set a PB of 4.72m this year before taking gold at the European Championships. She finished seventh at last year’s World Championships but is a much improved athlete since then.
Cuba’s Yarisley Silva added 25 centimetres to her PB last year, culminating with a 4.75m victory at the Pan-American Games and finishing fifth at the World Championships. Any further improvements could see the 25-year-old get among the medals in London.
Polish duo Anna Rogowska and Monika Pyrek have bags of experience. While Pyrek could stand to become the only woman to compete in all four Olympic finals to date, former World Champion Rogowska is the better Pole this year, having cleared 4.70m.
Martina Strutz and Svetlana Feofanova, both medallists at the World Championships last year, should also be in contention.
Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF