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Women's pole vault set to be a thriller

Women’s pole vault set to be a thriller
26 February 1999 –Monte Carlo – Although the women’s pole vault event is making only its second appearance at an IAAF World Championships in Maebashi, it is sure to be one of the highlights, thanks to the extraordinary, ongoing development of this event.

Last night at the Golden Galan IAAF Permit meeting in Stockholm, Germany’s Nicole Rieger-Humbert broke the world indoor record with 4.56 – a 1 cm improvement on the mark set by Emma George in Adelaide last March. But Rieger-Humbert – who began this winter’s campaign with a best of just 4.30 – is just one of many women who are pushing the boundaries of this event further and faster than anyone could have expected. Her immediate reaction after her record was surprise – and satisfaction that she had beaten the pre-event favourite Zsuzsa Szabo of Hungary, who had previously topped the world indoor list with 4.51. And then there is the amazing George. As an Australian, she has the good fortune to be able to compete in indoor events in Europe and then catch a plane home to contest outdoor events.

Not surprisingly, she is at her best under the Australian sun and in Sydney on February 20 the 24 year-old improved her own outdoor world record to 4.60. George has now broken 12 outdoor world records ... but she is certainly not invincible indoors. At the last World Indoor Championships in Paris in 1997, George was beaten by the American Stacy Dragila, who competes in her national trials this weekend. But Dragila’s countrywoman, former heptathlete Melissa Mueller, has shown even better form this season, improving from 4.40 in January to 4.50 on February 7, which is the third best indoor mark in the world.

Yet the standards in depth for this event are also impressive – with 11 athletes having bettered 4.30 this winter. So while Rieger-Humbert, George and Mueller may be favourites on paper, Maebashi could see the likes of Szabo, or former world record holder Anzhela Balakhonova (4.34 so far this winter) or Vala Flosadottir (4.40 in 1990) snatch gold in this notoriously unpredictable event.