The 2013-2016 IAAF Strategic Plan has six Core Values: universality, leadership, unity, excellence, integrity and solidarity, and a Vision Statement: “To lead, govern and develop the sport of athletics in all its forms worldwide, uniting the Athletics Family in a spirit of excellence, integrity and solidarity.”
Jenn Suhr, the silver medallist from Beijing, and the second highest vaulter of all-time, finally made it to the top of the event with a 4.75m effort at the second time of asking to win the gold on count back from Cuban Yarisley Silva, whose clearance at the same height equalled her national record. In bronze came the two-time reigning Olympic champion and the World record holder Yelena Isinbayeva who mustered a best of 4.70.
The vaulters had remarked yesterday in qualifying that the weather conditions were making vaulting conditions difficult, and with a gusty wind occasionally stiffly unfurling the Olympic and Union Flags which hung mostly limp on their poles at the far end of the stadium, conditions on the runway must have been challenging again.
As a consequence at the early heights of 4.30 and 4.45 the score cards of the 9 of the 12 finalists who had by then entered, were splattered with failures. No one managed that second height at their first attempt, two took it on their second (including Silva), another four on their last efforts, while three including 2009 World champion Anna Rogowska of Poland ended with failures. This was the opening height for the 2004 bronze medallist, who therefore ended her latest Olympic campaign without registering a mark.
While the next bar (4.55) saw the demise of British hope Holly Bleasdale, it also welcomed the entry of the remaining three finalists into the competition, with Suhr and German record holder Silke Spiegelburg successful at their first tries. Isinbayeva however was immediately in trouble, and after one failure passed her remaining two attempts, moving them to 4.65 which she took cleanly like the World record holder of old.
That was a bar that Suhr decided to pass but Spiegelburg like the Russian was also successful first time. Silva was now on a roll. The Cuban had taken 4.55 first time and she did the same with 4.65, and then made it three consecutive clearances by making 4.70 very fluently.
Suhr and Isinbayeva were also over it cleanly, while this height was the beginning of the end for Spiegelburg, who after failing once, moved her remaining two efforts to 4.75 where she went out. It had been the same scenario for her compatriot Martina Strutz, the 2011 World silver medallist, at 4.65 who after first time failure there, knocked the bar down twice at 4.70.
As the competition moved up to 4.75, the only two to clear - both on their second approaches down the runway - were Suhr and Silva. Isinbayeva who did not look good on her first two attempts, delayed the inevitable to 4.80 where she also crunched the bar. The American and Cuban had no better luck but with 4.75 under their belts they took the gold and silver respectively, with Isinbayeva the bronze.
"I think this bronze tells me, 'Yelena, don't quit', as I planned to quit after London (2012 Olympic Games)," said the World record holder, while Silva was also content: "I put in a lot of hard effort. I have always dreamed of winning a medal and it didn't matter what colour."
Suhr for her part detailed the long and winding road to this title: "It's really breath taking. It's emotional. It's something that's so emotional I can't even describe it, to work so hard for four years, to have injuries. My husband (also her coach) and I got through this. To have faith and to have it all come together and to achieve what we dreamt of, it's amazing," confirmed the winner who becomes the second American to win the Olympic title following the inaugural winner in Sydney 2000, Stacy Dragila.