Yelena Isinbayeva finished sixth on her last outing at the worlds, in Daegu two years ago. On home soil in front of an expectant crowd at the Luzhniki Stadium, there could be only one Isinbayeva who turned up - one to win.
Story first published on: Wednesday, 14 August 2013 08:58
Moscow: Russian Yelena Isinbayeva cemented her place in the pantheon of track and field greats by winning a third world pole vault title on home soil at the World Athletics Championships on Tuesday.
It was a first global title for the 31-year-old two-time Olympic champion since she won at the Beijing Games in 2008, and made a mockery of suggestions that her powers are waning and retirement beckons.
Isinbayeva completely dominated the event in the run up to those Olympics in the Chinese capital, breaking the world record an incredible 28 times (13 indoor and 15 outdoor), before and just after, as she revolutionised the event.
But she finished sixth on her last outing at the worlds, in Daegu two years ago. On home soil in front of an expectant crowd at the Luzhniki Stadium, there could be only one Isinbayeva who turned up - one to win.
"It was the best ever support," said Isinbayeva, who confirmed she would be taking 18 months out to have a baby with the goal of making a comeback at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
"I felt like I was at home, that everyone was behind me. I absorbed that and it resulted in a gold. The support was just colossal."
The world record holder with a massive 5.06m set in 2009, but bronze medallist at the London Olympics, came into the competition at 4.65m.
Amid roars from the best crowd yet at the stadium, Isinbayeva needed two attempts to clear that height, but a cool vault over 4.75m and suddenly all the pressure was on American Olympic champion Jennifer Suhr, who had entered at 4.55m.
Vaulting after Isinbayeva, the tension was palpable in the stadium and despite seeming to slip across the face of the bar, she muscled her way over to land 4.75m.
Germany's Silke Spiegelburg, fourth in the London Games, then joined the party with an equally comfortable vault over the same height, a season's best, Cuban Yarisley Silva sailing over shortly after.
Brazil's defending world champion Fabiana Murer, however, flunked three efforts at 4.75m to bow out of the competition, along with Russian Anastasia Savchenko.
Isinbayeva was next up and botched her first effort at 4.82m. But she clinched her second, promptly matched by Suhr. Spiegelburg then crashed out as Silva went clear.
The bar was raised to 4.89m and Isinbayeva did not disappoint, the crowd reacting in a way not even afforded to normal star attraction, Jamaican sprint sensation Usain Bolt, when he won the 100m on Sunday.
Rushing after her, Suhr, her black hair held back by a sparkly red aliceband, looked laboured and this time the cries from the crowd were in reaction to the American's failure.
Her second and third attempts were also botched, television cameras panning in on a grinning Isinbayeva cheekily giving the thumbs-up as the field cut to two.
"It was a great night for the spectators and one of the best competitions I've ever been involved in," said Suhr.
"I'm very happy for Yelena because she managed to please the home crowd. She really raised the standard of this event."
Silva then also failed to clear the height, handing Isinbayeva victory and Suhr silver on countback.
Ramping the bar up to 5.07m, 1cm higher than her own world record, Isinbayeva had her hero Sergey Bubka rushing down from the VIP stands.
The Ukrainian, a six-time world champion, has long followed the career of the Russian former gymnast and had this week expressed his desire to see Isinbayeva bow out on a winning note.
The ever-fickle Isinbayeva had reacted by casting doubt over whether she would indeed retire after this season.
Hurtling down the runway, she went closer on her second effort at 5.07, the knee of her turning, lead left leg clipping the bar.
The third attempt was also a failure, but that did not dampen the delirium that followed, Isinbayeva draping herself in a Russian flag, and rushing to hug coach Evgeniy Trofimov, the mascot and also performing some gymnastic moves down the back strait, to the delight of the raucous partisan crowd.