Raul Spank celebrates his fifth place at the Beijing Olympic Games (IAAF.org) © Copyright
General News 24 January 2009 – Dresden, Germany

Spank opens with 2.30m leap in Dresden, Battke again over 4.60m

Dresden, GermanyIt could hardly have been a better start into the year for one of Germany’s major hopes for the World Championships in Berlin: In front of his home crowd Raúl Spank took the High Jump at the Dresden Meeting on Friday evening with a fine jump over 2.30m.

1620 spectators in Dresden’s indoor arena celebrated their local hero, who had taken fifth place at the Olympic Games in Beijing last year, having entered the competition as an unknown. Spank tied Stefan Holm’s meeting record. The Swede had won a year ago with 2.30m as well.

And it seems that another German athlete could do very well this year: Anna Battke confirmed her fine form, when winning the women’s Pole Vault in Dresden with a 4.60m clearance, which is a new meeting record. She had jumped this height already last weekend.

Spank not slowed by back injury

Four days ago it had looked as if Spank’s indoor campaign could come to an unplanned halt before it had begun. The 20-year-old slipped on the icy pavements of Dresden and suffered a bruise on his lower back. In training he could then just jump 2.18m in pain, but the physios got him ready for his ,homegame’ in Dresden. And Spank did not disappoint his fans. While all his other eight competitors had started competition at low heights (2.00, 2.05 or 2.10m) and continued jumping more than Spank, he remained patient and concentrated. He first cleared 2.16m, then passed 2.18m and cleared 2.21 and 2.24m at his first attempts as well.

When Spank went for 2.27m there was only one competitor left. Mikhail Tsvetkov (Russia) and Oleksandr Nartov (Ukraine) had both missed 2.24m and had to settle for third (Nartov) and fourth (Tsvetkov) with 2.21m. But the one left was a former World champion: Yuriy Krimarenko, who had triumphed in Helsinki in 2005. The Ukrainian cleared 2,27m at his third attempt while Spank did so at his second. The competition between the two was probably quite a motivation for them as well. Spank then had a great second attempt at 2.30m, which lifted him well over the bar and indicated that he will be able to further improve on his all-time best of 2.32m from Beijing already during this indoor season.

But spectators were tremendously supportive of Yuri Krimarenko as well, who in something like an ‘away match’ almost cleared 2.30m at his second attempt. His third attempt was then less close – so he settled for second with 2.27m and did not spoil the party.

“This really is a great start into the season,” Spank said. “It is not easy to start the year with such a home meeting, because expectations are really high here. But I managed to concentrate well.” Spank did not go for another height after 2.30m, because he felt some pain related to the fall on Monday. “I don’t want to risk anything at this very early stage of the season,” he explained to the spectators.

Besides winning the Dresden Meeting Spank has also achieved the qualifying mark for the European Indoor Championships at his very first competition of the year.

“This is really great, because now I don’t have to bother about this any more. It can be nerve wrecking when you are chasing a qualifying mark,” he said. His immediate preparation for the Dresden Meeting had taken place at university, where he spent six hours on Friday to continue studying economy science.

Battke building consistency

Three women looked capable of taking the Pole Vault: Besides Battke, her fellow countrywoman Kristina Gadschiew had a couple of great jumps and there was Russia’s Anastasiya Shvedova as well. Battke had already impressed with a 4.60m at a regional championship a week earlier. So this time she did not start competing until the bar was raised to 4.45m. At that stage there were only Gadschiew and Shvedova left in the competiton. Jirina Ptácniková (Czech Republic/4.20m) had taken fourth place and Lisa Ryshich (Germany/4.20 m) was fifth.

While Gadschiew had very good jumps at 4.20 and 4.35m she also cleared 4.45m at her second attempt. Shvedova, who had problems with her run-up in her first comeptition of the year and because of this chose a short run-up of only eighht steps, also jumped 4.45m at her second attempt. It did not look to favour Battke, when she had interrupted her final attempt and just managed to avoid a foul. There was no clock with a countdown, which was Battke’s luck, because it took quite a bit of time until she finally did fly over 4.45m in convincing fashion.

Battke then passed the next height of 4.50m again. While Gadschiew had some promising jumps but missed all three Shvedova cleared that height at once and remained in the lead. But when the bar was up at 4.60m Battke was back again. And once more she made it extremely exciting. At her very last attempt she flew over 4.60m and established the meeting record, beating Shvedova, who missed three times, into second (4.50m) and Gadschiew into third (4.45m). Battke then went for a new German indoor record of 4.71m, but missed three times.

Asked about whether she was surprised about her strong start into the indoor season Battke said: “No I am not. I have expected this. The reasons are my new coaches, with whom I have trained very well.”

While her former coach Herbert Czingon became one of the two national head coaches after Beijing, Balian Buschbaum (former Yvonne Buschbaum) became her coach. Additionally Andrej Tivontschik takes care about the technique. Battke could well make it to Torino for the European Indoors despite the strong German competition.

“My biggest competitors at present are my poles,” she said. “I used the ones from last week, but at my second competition of the season they suddenly felt much softer. That was the reason why it became so close jumping the heights.”

Jörg Wenig for the IAAF