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'Bubka in a skirt' still soaring

By Reuters in Moscow | China Daily | Updated: 2013-08-15 08:02

 'Bubka in a skirt' still soaring

Yelena Isinbayeva celebrates with a backflip after winning Tuesday's pole vault final at the IAAF World Athletics Championships in Moscow. Adrian Dennis / Agence France-Presse

Retirement not on the agenda for Isinbayeva

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.

(China Daily 08/15/2013 page22)

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