Ekaterini Stefanidi in the pole vault at the IAAF World Indoor Championships Portland 2016 (Getty Images) © Copyright

First impressions – Ekaterini Stefanidi

Ekaterini Stefanidi is among a special club of pole vaulters to have cleared 4.90m. Here Greece’s 2005 world youth champion and world indoor bronze medallist responds to our first impressions questions.  

First coach

His name was Panagiotis Simeonidis, who is probably one of the best technical coaches around. I enjoyed a lot of success because of him. He taught me how to run correctly and gave me a great technical base. I also enjoyed a lot of success as an age-group vaulter. (Stefanidi won gold and silver medals at the 2005 and 2007 IAAF World Youth Championships and then a bronze at the 2008 IAAF World Junior Championships.)

First injury

I was aged about 12 when I started to have a hamstring issue. I must have gone to dozens of doctors in Greece to try to fix the problem but then I was recommended a good chiropractor and she managed to fix the problem.

First athletics disappointment

It was during my first year at middle school competing at the Greek Middle School Championships. I was confident of winning, yet when I arrived there I found I was competing against a girl who was three years older than me and had a PB 10cm higher than me. In that competition, she jumped 3.40m and I jumped 3.20m.

First international meeting

If I remember correctly, I was aged 14 when I competed in Prague for a street meet. There were two pits, one for the men and one for the women, set up in the central plaza and many big athletes competed.

I had never competed on a raised runway before but I remember vaulting a PB of 4.10m. I remember either the Czech or the Swedish coach freaking out that I had jumped 4.10m and I was only 14. I had never really travelled beyond Greece before and I recall having to go for a pee halfway during the competition. I remember going into a McDonald’s which was positioned close by the runway and there was a lady standing by the toilet door saying I had to pay money to go for a pee. That was also the first time I had ever experienced having to pay to go for a pee!

First toy

I had many shoe boxes filled with Disney characters, I played with them for hours and made stories with them in my head. In fact, I played so much with them I remember once doing a memory test and when I shut my eyes and picked a random figure out of the box I knew the character.

First childhood friend

She’s called Panagiota Anagnostopoulou. We have been good friends since attending pre-school together at the age of two. We lived close to each other and later went to the same elementary, middle and high school.

We were the best of friends when we were younger and although we didn't see as much of each other when we were older she has always remained my go-to friend. Today we still speak on the phone every week. She lives in Scotland, where she works as a dentist. 

First pet

We found a puppy when I was young but a couple of months later, sadly, it ran away from our home.

First fashion disaster

I don’t think my first fashion disaster involved clothes, it was more make-up. I reached an age when all the girls were wearing make-up and for a couple of years I didn’t bother. But then I got to the point – from the age of about 16 – when I started to wear make-up and I dyed by hair blonde.

The trouble was I wore far too much make-up to go to practise and my mum would try to tell me in a nice way that I perhaps shouldn’t wear so much make up. I figured out soon enough that perhaps it wasn’t such a good idea. 

First piece of clothing you bought

As a girl, I didn’t care about those things but I had a friend who took me shopping and who often pushed me out of my comfort zone. I’m sure it was something I bought after shopping with that friend. I probably only wore it once.

First thing you learned how to cook

My mum taught me to make soup with rice and a cube of broth to give it a chicken broth taste. It wasn’t very complicated. I’m glad to say that my cooking skills have moved on since that point.

First car

I got a licence when I was aged 18 and for six months – before I left to study in the US – I drove a Toyota Yaris. It was a hatchback and when I moved to the US I bought a Yaris again, but this time it was a Sedan.

Steve Landells for the IAAF