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.
“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,” 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.
The world record holder with a massive 5.06m set in 2009, but bronze medalist 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.
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.
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.
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.