Sandi Morris in the pole vault at the IAAF World Indoor Championships Birmingham 2018 (Getty Images) © Copyright
Report Birmingham, UK

Report: women's pole vault final – IAAF World Indoor Championships Birmingham 2018

Still the wait goes on for Katerina Stefanidi. The 28-year-old might have come to Birmingham as the Greek with the Midas vaulting touch – on a roll of European outdoor, Olympic, European indoor, and world indoor titles – but, when it came to the world indoor final, the one gold missing from her Fort Knox collection proved beyond her grasp once again.

Instead, as the compelling drama unfolded over three and quarter hours, the entirety of the Saturday evening session, it was Sandi Morris, the US bridesmaid of the women’s vault, who rose to the big occasion and seized her chance to wed herself to gold. Thrillingly so.

Runner-up in the previous three global finals – to US team-mate Jenn Suhr at the 2016 World Indoor Championships in Portland, and to Stefanidi at the 2016 Olympics in Rio and last year’s outdoor World Championships in London – silver Sandi finally stepped up a grade to top spot.

She did so in style, breaking Suhr’s championship record with a 4.95m clearance and taking three shots, all unsuccessful, at 5.04m, two centimetres higher than Suhr’s world indoor record.

In a competition that dramatically seed and sawed, Stefanidi – on an unbeaten run of 19 finals – had to settle for bronze, with neutral athlete Anzhelika Sidorova taking silver.

Stefanidi sat out the first hour and a quarter, entering the competition with a first-time success at 4.70m. Only six women remained in contention with her when the bar was raised to 4.75m.

Canada’s Alysha Newman bowed out at that height with three failures, while Stefanidi required a second attempt to succeed and world leader Katie Nageotte, who had earlier failed first time at 4.50m and 4.70m, rolled the dice and passed to 4.80m after dislodging the bar with her opening attempt.

Morris, who needed two attempts at 4.70m, cleared first time – as did Olympic bronze medallist Eliza McCartney, the New Zealander setting an area indoor record.

Sidorova, faultless at 4.60m and 4.70m, elected to pass at 4.75m and the former European indoor and outdoor champion regained the box seat with a first time clearance at 4.80m.

Nageotte departed, after two failures, finishing fifth. McCartney dropped out of the medal hunt too, her three misses consigning her to fourth.

So then there were three. Morris and Stefanidi both dug deep to nail third attempts at 4.80m. Then, at 4.85m, Sidorova sailed over first time and Morris and Stefanidi both passed after first time misses.

At 4.90m, two blanks from Stefanidi left her with bronze. Sidorova’s smooth progress hit a bump. She needed a third attempt to clear the bar. Morris, with her pass, also entered last chance saloon after one failure but again showed her bottle with a last gasp success.

The momentum was with the 25-year-old US vaulter. Sidorova could venture no higher, with three misses at 4.95m.

Morris had two failures but then coolly waited for the final track event, the men’s 60m final, to run its course, before rumbling down the runway and taking the vault that took her to gold – matching the silver medal winning clearance in Portland two years ago that put her third on the all-time indoor list.

"It was a battle,” the new world indoor champion reflected. “It was the hardest I have had to work for a medal, 4.90m and 4.95m on third attempts. I got 4.90m and I thought I had it won but you can never let your guard down.

"Honestly, I am so proud of this moment and so proud of myself because to make the height that high on a third attempt under pressure is incredible. It was the competition of my life.

"I got myself pumped up because adrenaline is the best pain killer. Once I made 4.95m I knew I had three attempts at the world record. I knew today I was walking away as the gold medallist."

Sidorova was happy with her silver and a three centimetre improvement on her PB. "Before the championships I told myself I would be happy to be in the top three,” she said. “I knew the girls and there were so many who has already jumped 4.80m. In the end I managed to improve my personal best - the best result of my whole career which is amazing."

As for Stefanidi, she confessed: “I feel relieved that I didn’t get fourth. I’m so tired. I had to put in so much effort to gain this medal.

"Before the championships, I discussed with my coach whether to start or not to start indoors. I was thinking about skipping it as I had some pain in my tendon, but the more I jumped the better I felt. Maybe it was more a mental thing.

"Now, I am excited that I made it on to the podium. I cannot be angry that I did not win. I only can be angry that I did not jump higher.

"The gold was really too high for me today."

Simon Turnbull for the IAAF