MOSCOW (AFP) ― Russia’s pole vault tsarina Yelena Isinbayeva heads into the upcoming world championships in the unfamiliar situation of seeking revenge for bitter defeats that shattered her aura of dominance.
Isinbayeva will line up for the championships in Daegu, South Korea, desperately short of competition practice in 2011 after a series of niggles but still intimidating rivals who know how she revolutionized women’s pole vault.
Yelena IsinbayevaI. (AFP-Yonhap News)
The 29-year-old two-time Olympic and world champion failed to record a height in the final stage of the 2009 Berlin world championships and only came fourth in last year’s world indoor championships in Doha.
The tearful setbacks were a bruising blow for the pole vault queen, who became Russia’s best known sportswoman by winning Olympic gold in Athens and Beijing and lifting the world record to above five meters.
Isinbayeva, who has set 27 world records in her career so far, appeared to struggle with the idea of losing and took a break to reconsider her position in sport.
She returned to her home city of Volgograd and Yevgeny Trofimov, her first coach who took her from being a promising youngster to international stardom, and slowly eased herself back into competition.
“We are just working day by day according to our plan aiming to win a medal at the world championships,” Trofimov said ahead of Daegu.
“We have already walked a long, long way in the right direction since Yelena returned to me, restoring her confidence in the competition experience.”
In a chilling warning for her rivals, he added: “And I have no doubts that she will be capable of setting a new world record in the very near future.”
Isinbayeva returned to competition in February, winning two indoor events in Moscow, where she beat her arch rival Svetlana Feofanova and Donetsk, Ukraine, where she produced a top-class result of 4.85 meters.
But she then withdrew from competition again, although she kept a high profile in Russia, appearing in commercials for women’s cosmetics.
In July Isinbayeva competed at Belgium, where she defied strong winds to clinch victory in her first outdoor meeting of the season with a modest winning effort of 4.60 meters, way below her world record of 5.06 meters set in Zurich in August 2009.
The win at Belgium was followed by two unsuccessful starts in meets at Lugano, Italy and Lucerne, Switzerland, where she went out of the meeting due to a hand injury.
She also won the Stockholm Diamond League before setting up her training camp in her native town of Volgograd, where she began intensive preparations for the worlds.
Though her results this season cannot serve as proof of a complete recovery both she and Trofimov believe the world championships at Daegu are not only the main event of this season but also a springboard for the London Olympics and more world records.
“I want to win the 2011 world championships, the 2012 Olympics, and, of course, set more world records,” Isinbayeva told AFP in a recent interview.
“I definitely aim to compete in Korea and avenge a two-year-old defeat at Berlin.”