‘Bubka in a skirt’ still soar­ing

Re­tire­ment not on the agenda for Is­in­bayeva

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - SPORTS - By REUTERS in Moscow

Like all things aero­dy­namic, Ye­lena Is­in­bayeva was born to fly through the air with the great­est of ease.

The pole vaulter ex­traor­di­naire is blessed with the sup­ple body-bend­ing skills of a gym­nast, the flex­i­bil­ity of an ac­ro­bat and the abil­ity to soar to heights never at­tained be­fore by a woman in the sport she has re­de­fined.

At 31, with talk of re­tire­ment and ques­tions hang­ing over her abil­ity to rekin­dle mem­o­ries of for­mer glo­ries — two Olympic ti­tles and show-stop­ping world records — she de­liv­ered a third world ti­tle in front of an ec­static home crowd on Tues­day.

The Vol­gograd- born star knows how to please a crowd. With­draw­ing her­self into her own bub­ble, block­ing out the world be­fore a com­pe­ti­tion, Is­in­bayeva comes alive with 20 me­ters of run­way ahead, a long pole in her hand and a bar set high into the night sky.

Grace­ful, sup­ple and pow­er­ful, her sport­ing prow­ess was honed in her child­hood years when she trained as an artis­tic gym­nast for 10 years be­fore be­ing con­sid­ered too tall. At age 15 she took up pole vault­ing.

That she was cut out to shine in track and field was shown at the 1998 World Youth Games.

They took place in Moscow, where a 4m leap to se­cure vic­tory was a por­tent of things to come. Two years later, when women’s pole vault be­came an Olympic event at the 2000 Syd­ney Games, she won the world ju­nior cham­pi­onships.

Un­der the guid­ance of men­tor and coach Yevgeny Trofimov, with whom she split in 2005 be­fore re­turn­ing to in 2011, Is­in­bayeva flour­ished.

Dubbed ‘Sergei Bubka in a skirt’ by Rus­sian me­dia be­cause of her dom­i­na­tion and habit of in­creas­ing the world record a cen­time­ter at a time, Is­in­bayeva gained con­sid­er­able fi­nan­cial re­ward from each new mark.

Ukrainian Bubka reg­u­larly broke the men’s record be­tween 1984 and 1994. His out­door mark of 6.14 me­ters and his in­door one of 6.15 still stand.

Be­fore Is­in­bayeva came along, Amer­i­can Stacy Drag­ila set the bench­mark for women with 10 world records be­tween 1999 and 2001, but the Rus­sian has bro­ken new ground, set­ting 15 out­door world records and 13 in­doors.

Her ri­valry with com­pa­triot Svet­lana Fe­o­fanova helped spur her. Fe­o­fanova twice took the world record in 2004, only to be usurped again by Is­in­bayeva — each time within a month.

She set her first world record in 2003, clear­ing 4.82m in Gateshead. Her 5m feat came in 2005 and her clear­ance of 5.06 in Zurich in 2009 stands as the world record.

In her golden pe­riod, Is­in­bayeva won world ti­tles in 2005 and 2007 and Olympic gold in 2004 and 2008.

Al­though her pow­ers waned in ma­jor cham­pi­onships fi­nals af­ter that Bei­jing suc­cess, her sta­tus as a su­per­star in her home­land never di­min­ished, even af­ter an 11-month break be­fore re­turn­ing in 2011.

Now she has set new goals — to be­come a mother and then bow out in an­other blaze of glory at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

The white-haired and mous­ta­chioed Trofimov, it seems, will count down the min­utes un­til her re­turn.

“There is this Ital­ian com­poser Francesco Sartori, he com­posed a won­der­ful piece — Time To Say Good­bye. But the time to say farewell has not yet come,” he told Itar-Tass.

ADRIAN DENNIS / AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Ye­lena Is­in­bayeva cel­e­brates with a back­flip af­ter win­ning Tues­day’s pole vault fi­nal at the IAAF World Ath­let­ics Cham­pi­onships in Moscow.

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