Yelena Isinbayeva of Russia after attempting to clear 5m in Budapest (Getty Images) © Copyright
General News 7 March 2004 – Budapest, Hungary

Isinbayeva's shining example

Budapest, HungaryMany had predicted that Russian women athletes would set a couple – or even more - World records today and indeed the superb competition at the Budapest Sportarena confirmed the pre-championships omens.

In the space of just over one hour spectators were treated to new World Indoor records in the women’s Triple Jump and Pole Vault, courtesy of Tatyana Lebedeva and Yelena Isinbayeva respectively.

It took Lebedeva just one jump to kill off the competition with her equal World record 15.16m opener, a mark which she later improved twice more (15.25m – second attempt and 15.36m – last attempt). But the road to the World record was slightly longer for her team-mate and great friend Isinbayeva.

The 22-year old athlete from Volgograd had a clean sheet all the way up to 4.76m at which height only her compatriot and now former World record holder Svetlana Feofanova, and Olympic champion Stacy Dragila (USA), were left in the competition.

Isinbayeva was the image of serenity. After an impressive first-time clearance at 4.76m, she had the first miss of her competition at 4.81m, only to come back and take a well clear second attempt. 

Former World record holder Dragila, 33, who has been well below-par in recent years had the nerves to sail over 4.81m at her last attempt and remained in the competition. This was in stark contrast to Feofanova’s fortunes, who after one 4.76 failure had moved on and gone out after two tries at 4.81.

For Isinbayeva “Dragila was an extra motivational factor,” to boost her already confident manner, and it is clear by the margin with which she cleared the new World Indoor record that she has greater heights to come.

“I am very happy with this win, I feel great, it’s fantastic. I am thankful that Feofanova was already out of the competition when I attempted the World record. It gave me an extra boost.”

“4.86m is fantastic but it’s a height I knew I could clear. My personal best in training is 4.95m so I felt very confident when attempting the World record.”

“I think 5 metres is possible. I have the technique and the strength. I will probably need a bit of luck!”

Today not only did Isinbayeva regain the World Indoor record that she set earlier this season but she also became the first woman ever to attempt to clear 5 metres in an official competition.

“The 5 metres attempt was more of a curiosity. I just wanted to see what I could do. I was already very happy with my result, so after the one try there was no point in me continuing the competition.”

Despite performing brilliantly, there was still one person in Budapest Sportarena that Isinbayeva didn’t fully satisfy.

“My coach Yevgeni Trofimov said that I did a lot of mistakes today. I don’t know which errors he meant but I will soon find out. So when I go back home we will sit down and try and analyse what mistakes I made and how to improve on them.”

Yelena Isinbayeva was 15 when the course of her life changed. She had been a successful gymnast at home in Volgograd but, exceeding 1.70 metres in height, she was considered too tall to become one of the best. So she was directed towards athletics but the change came as a shock to the girl who would soon become the World record holder.

"I went in with my eyes closed," Isinbayeva recalled. "I knew nothing about athletics. I knew gymnastics, and something about swimming and football, but I didn't know what athletics was."

Every year since Isinbayeva has improved becoming successively World Youth, World Junior and now World Indoor champion.

According to her manager Pavel Voronkov, Isinbayeva is "a very sunny girl, who is interested in everything, friendly with everyone, always open, and she likes it when everyone is paying attention to her."

Since coming to the limelight last year after setting an unexpected World outdoor record (4.82) in Gateshead, Isinbayeva has exemplified a smiling character, shedding tears only after a disappointing third in the Paris World Championships last summer.

"She has big potential," Voronkov said. "She is pretty and speaks English, so she is a very good person for the press."

In a packed press conference room where she juggled English and Russian languages and Isinbayeva pleasantly entertained the journalists. After praising Dragila for returning to her top level and thanking Lebedeva for motivating her with her own World record performance, she wouldn’t reveal what her 90,000 dollars prize money would be used for.

“I am not telling you, this is my little secret. I like keeping secrets.”

Secrets or none, there is no hiding this woman’s sporting talent.