Silke Spiegelburg at the DKB ISTAF pre-meet Press Conference in Berlin (Bob Ramsak) © Copyright
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Spiegelburg starting to impress as a senior - ÅF Golden League

Berlin, GermanyGerman pole vaulter Silke Spiegelburg had a stellar career as a teenage athlete, winning at the 2001 IAAF World Youth Championships and then taking successive continental crowns at the 2003 and 2005 European Athletics Junior Championships, and now she is starting to make her mark on the senior stage.

She won the 2009 European Athletics Indoor Championships silver medal in Turin, Italy, earlier this year and is quietly but surely starting to position herself as one of the main rivals to the supremacy of the incomparable Yelena Isinbayeva.

The pair's paths cross for the 23rd time at the DKB-ISTAF Berlin ÅF Golden League meeting on Sunday. The score currently stands at Isinbayeva 22 Spiegelburg 0 but at a meeting famed for its shocks - just remember Lashawn Merritt beating Jeremy Wariner 12 months ago or unexpected losses by Irving Saladino, Janeth Jepkosgei and Susanna Kallur last year - could the 23-year-old from Georgsmarienhütte provide a monumental upset and a huge thrill for the local spectators?

“It's not easy for me to answer that question,” reflected Spiegelburg modestly, perhaps not quite believing that the undisputed Goddess of Pole Vaulting might be fallible.

Written in the stars

Nevertheless, the pair seem to have intertwined destinies.

Spiegelburg is happy to admit that the date of 25 August, 2005, is etched in her memory. On that day she set a World Junior record of 4.48m breaking the mark of Isinbayeva, who had jumped 4.47m as a junior.

“The very first time we competed against each other was at the Athens Olympics when we both made the final. I was only 18 years old and she won the gold medal, I think it's best for me to say that we are now more equal contenders.

“My plan for this meeting is to improve my personal best here, that would be great in front of a German crowd; then it's to do well at the German Championships, the World Championships and hopefully make the top eight when we are back here in Berlin in August,” she added.

Her outdoor best now stands at 4.70m from the 2008 ÅF Golden League meeting in Rome, when she watched Isinbayeva set the first of her three World records last summer, but during the indoor season she raised the German indoor record firstly to 4.71m and then to 4.75m.

Her recent record - and she is also still unbeaten outdoors this year after three consecutive wins in Doha, Rabat and in Hengelo - give reason to believe that, even if beating Isinbayeva is highly unlikely, a big jump could still be on the cards, especially as there will be 65,000 passionate German athletics fans offering their support.

High and happy

Regardless of the result, it's also likely that she will have a good time. The ever-smiling Spiegelburg is the living embodiment of the old adage that blondes have more fun.

“I'm a very happy person, people tell me that anyway and I have fun in training; of course it's important, perhaps the most important thing, that you get some fun from your sport as you try to do your best.

“My training group consists mainly of men. They include Danny Ecker, my brother Richard and Malte Mohr, we have a lots of fun although sometimes it can be hard.  But the guys say that training with them will make me a better jumper. The only problem with the guys is that they are always talking, often when I'm trying to concentrate. They say that it's women who sometimes talk too much but in our group it's the men!” joked Spiegelburg, who is coached by the former Polish international Leszek Klima.

It was Klima who encouraged her to think about changing the basic technique that had served her so well during her junior years so that she could adapt to stiffer poles and clear higher heights.

In fact, Spiegelburg's retuning process was similar to the one that Isinbayeva's coach Vitaly Petrov engineered with her in the wake of winning at the 2005 IAAF World Championships, but which also took a couple of years to generate distinctive results.

Change for the best

“My coach and I started changing the techniques I had been using about two-and-a-half years ago. It seems that it's now starting to bear fruit, I feel more stable, more confident and I really have had fun with every competition this season

“Torino, of course, was a particularly nice competition for me. It was my first medal in an international competition as a senior. It's joined all my other medals in a big presentation box. I can now say it's a very big box because I've been vaulting in championships since I was 15. I put every new medal I win in there.”

So will there be one from the IAAF World Championships in Berlin to be added to the box and will there be many friends and family there to see her climb on the podium, if it happens?

“I don't know. I think there will be but I have told everybody that they have to make their own arrangements to get there! I have been honest with everybody, I want people to come and I'm very happy about that, but I've said to people that if they want to come they have to organise it themselves. I'm arranging nothing!

“I think there will be a party but it's also important for me that I do well in the competition and try to jump a personal best,” added Spiegelburg, still focussed despite a gleaming smile.

Phil Minshull for the IAAF