As was seemingly expected, Yelena Isinbayeva began her 2006 season by raising her own World indoor record in the pole vault at the Pole Vault Stars competition in Donetsk, Ukraine.
Jumping before a capacity crowd at the Sport Palace Druzba, the reigning World and Olympic champion and twice World athlete of the year cleared 4.91 on her first attempt, adding one centimetre to her previous indoor standard of 4.90 set last year at the European Indoor Championships in Madrid. It was the 19th senior World record for the Volgograd native.
"It was my first competition of the year, so I did feel some pressure," the 23-year-old Russian said. "It was the first time competing without my old coach." Last November, Isinbayeva parted with long-time coach Yevgeni Trofimov, and now trains under Vitaly Petrov.
Isinbayeva opened the competition with a miss at her opening height of 4.61, before ridding herself of her season debut jitters. She continued with first attempt clearances at 4.71 and 4.81 before the bar was raised to the new record height.
"I used a soft pole on the first jump," Isinbayeva said. "Afterwards I was able to gain my rhythm."
She needed a second try before sailing over 4.91 and concluding the competition.
It was the third year in a row that Isinbayeva raised the World indoor record in the Donetsk competition, traditionally the finest gathering of international Pole Vault talent each winter. In 2004, she upped the record with first attempt clearances of 4.81 and 4.83, and again last year, when she reached 4.87. In 2005, Isinbayeva became the first woman to clear five metres, and later cleared 5.01 in Helsinki to win her first World title outdoors.
As she did in Helsinki, Monika Pyrek of Poland finished second after successfully negotiating 4.76 on her first attempt, another national record for the 25-year-old, and her highest-ever clearance. In the process, Pyrek moved up to the No. 4 slot all-time, edging past compatriot Anna Rogowska.
Rogowska, the runner-up here last year, finished third with a 4.61 effort. Russian Tatyana Polnova and Kelly Suttle of the U.S. were fourth and fifth, each managing 4.51.
Burgess tops strong men's field
Despite a self-professed "confusing" competition, Paul Burgess of Australia prevailed over a strong men's field to win with a first attempt 5.80 clearance.
"It started out a little confusing," said Burgess, a member of the event's outdoor six metre club, "because my poles didn't arrive on time."
The Australian champion began the competition using poles borrowed from Russian vaulter Igor Pavlov, but those, 5.20m in length, were significantly longer that than the five metre poles he's accustomed to competing with. By the time his personal poles arrived, the competition had already progressed to 5.80.
"It was kind of risky to switch at that point," Burgess explained. But the switch didn't affect his rhythm, and he went over on his first attempt, raising his own national indoor record in the process. It was the first time the 26-year-old competed in Donetsk, a competition he described as "unbelievable."
"It was definitely the most fun I ever had a competition."
Swede Alhaji Jeng continued his strong season, finishing runner-up, also with a 5.80 clearance. It was the second time in less than a week that the 24-year-old raised the national record. On Wednesday (8 February), Alhaji finished second to world leader Tim Lobinger of Germany with a 5.76 personal best.
Przemyslaw Czerwinski of Poland was third with a 5.70 clearance, the highest ever leap indoors or outdoors for the 22-year-old.
* pending ratification
Bob Ramsak for the IAAF