The Sydney 2000 Olympics will be remembered for Cathy Freeman’s gold on ‘Magic Monday’. Last year’s Olympic Games saw Jessica Ennis-Hill take gold on ‘Super Saturday’. And now another poster girl for a global championships, Yelena Isinbayeva, triumphed in front of her home crowd on what could be remembered as ‘Terrific Tuesday’.
So the term ‘girl’ may be stretching things for a 31-year-old woman who was competing at her sixth World Championships, seeking to add a third gold medal to her collection.
Not only did Isinbayeva have the pressure of being the featured athlete on the logo for the championships, she also had the weight of expectation bearing down on her shoulders from the local – and vocal – crowd inside the Luzhniki Stadium.
But tonight Isinbayeva appeared back to her old dominant self from several years ago, still talking to her pole before each vault, still too good for the rest of the world.
A miss at her opening height did not shake her and she duly sailed over 4.65m on her second attempt. She then cleared 4.75m at the first time of asking, but didn’t take the lead as Olympic champion Jenn Suhr and Germany’s Silke Spiegelburg had also cleared that height with faultless records up to that point.
Cuba’s world leader Yarisley Silva got over 4.75m at the second time of asking, having needed three attempts at her previous height. With four women clearing 4.75m, it matched the depth of the 2007 World and 2008 Olympic finals.
Defending champion Fabiana Murer could not clear 4.75m though and exited the competition, the Brazilian only managing a best of 4.65m. Also bowing out at that stage were Isinbayeva’s Russian team-mates, Anastasia Savchenko and Angelina Zhuk-Krasnova.
That simply meant that the crowd’s full attention was now focused on their star athlete. None of the four remaining finalists cleared the next height, 4.82m, at the first time of asking. Isinbayeva then popped over it on her second try, while Suhr did likewise to maintain her lead on count-back.
Silva once again needed three attempts to clear it, while Spiegelburg could not quite manage it. The German finished fourth, matching her finish from the 2009 World Championships, 2012 European Championships, 2012 World Indoor Championships and 2012 Olympic Games.
The medals were finally decided at 4.89m. Isinbayeva was up first and was flawless again, popping over the bar to a backdrop of rapturous applause. She celebrated, but only briefly as she was all too aware that two strong opponents were left in the competition.
It’s difficult to blame a partisan crowd for cheering when the opponents of their favourite athlete register a foul, and they proceeded to do so six times as Suhr and Silva each notched up three failures, the last of which sent the crowd wild as it guaranteed Isinbayeva’s victory.
In her usual fashion, Isinbayeva hadn’t watch any of those attempts and she was faced the other way, unable to remove the broad smile from her face. With bronze medallist Silva’s exit from the competition confirmed, she ran over to the crowd and was momentarily swamped by them before returning to the pole vault apron to attempt one final height.
She upped the bar to 5.07m, a would-be World record. Her three failed attempts were respectable, but tonight wasn’t about records. It was about putting on a show to her legions of loyal fans that had supported her over the years through her many World records and gold medals; this, undoubtedly, being the most memorable of those.
Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF