Soaring high

Yelena Isinbayeva gives Russia a World Championship to remember

Russia is not quite ageing gracefully in the sporting world. From the Cold War zenith, it has been a comedown story of fewer medals, lost glory and doping black-lists. It needed pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva's third World Championship title from possibly her last jump on her farewell night to light up the Luzhniki Stadium and for the world to hear the Russian roar, reminiscent of the old times. It was the 31-year-old's gritty comeback to the competition, after being deprived of the gold medal for five years since the Beijing Olympics, that made it a Championship for Russians to remember. Even Bolt, atoning calmly for his Daegu false-start with a clinical run, would be jealous.

The period of the mid-2000s, especially 2005, was about Isinbayeva's incredible pursuit of excellence. She broke the world record an astounding 28 times (13 indoor and 15 outdoor), leading up to the Beijing Games's gold. Her fans have lost count of the times when, after raising the bar yet again, she would return home, fall in a heap of exhaustion and declare she wouldn't put herself through this training-tournament torture anymore. Yet, a few days' break, and the queen of pole vault would be back again her Sergei Bubka-like appetite for records never failing to push her higher. And more often than not, with the watching world on the edge of its seat and willing her on, she would come good on her goal. If Bubka had put light years between him and his competitors when he ruled the discipline, Yelena could be said to have taken it a notch higher by becoming synonymous with pole vault.

It's tough to overtake sprinters and their fan-following in athletics, but Yelena Isinbayeva with her gymnast's grace and winsome smile saved her best for her adoring fans at home. She might not have cleared 5.07 metres for another world record, but she'd already soared higher than anyone else in the vaulting world.

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