The event first featured in the sixth World Championships in Seville in 1999. It was at the time the highest-quality pole vault in history with seven women bettering 4.40m.
Stacy Dragila remarkably achieved her gold medal winning vault with her 15th jump of the competition, recording 4.60m to equal the world record. Anzhela Balakhonova went clear all the way up to 4.55m and finished second.
The standard was even higher in Edmonton in 2001. Dragila and Svetlana Feofanova were the only two to clear 4.60m, but they also jumped 4.65m, 4.70m and 4.75m. Dragila cleared it at the first attempt to the Russian’s second. They both failed at the world-record height of 4.82m, which would have won a $100,000 bonus.
The competition took four hours, not helped by a crossbar mechanism failure which meant one side of the bar was set too high and some failed jumps had to be later annulled.
By the time it came to Paris in 2003, there was a new world record-holder in Yelena Isinbayeva but she was only third as Feofanova won with a 4.75m vault and Annika Becker was second with 4.70m. Dragila finished fourth.
The 2005 final in Helsinki was delayed for two days because of gale-force winds and, though conditions were still not perfect for the final, Isinbayeva underlined her dominance. A 4.70m vault guaranteed a gold medal and she then cleared a world record 5.01m at her second attempt. Her winning margin of 41cm was the biggest in a global championship – men or women.
She then defended her title successfully in Osaka in 2007, needing only three jumps overall to win the gold, clearing 4.82m with her second jump after entering at 4.65m. Feofanova won her third medal at this event
, a bronze, and best marks for placings in any pole vault competition were set from third (4.75m) to ninth (4.60m).
Isinbayeva had won seven global titles but missed out on an eighth in Berlin in 2009 as she failed her opening height of 4.75m. Anna Rogowska, who had been seventh, sixth and eighth in the three previous championships, won with a 4.75m vault. It was a Polish one-two as Monika Pyrek, competing in her fifth final, shared silver with American Chelsea Johnson to claim her third medal. Kate Dennison achieved the best ever British result and height with a 4.55m vault for sixth place.
Isinbayeva returned in Daegu in 2011 but only gained one clearance at 4.65m and ended up finishing in sixth place. Fabiana Murer, who had been sixth and fifth at the previous two championships, rose to the occasion and won with 4.85m to equal the South American record. Feofanova won a record fourth medal, taking bronze with 4.75m.
In Moscow in 2013, Isinbayeva wasn’t back to her best but won her fourth medal and third gold as the only athlete to clear 4.89m. It was a quality competition as Jenn Suhr and Yarisley Silva shared silver with 4.82m.
Year | Winner | Height | GB position and mark
1999 Stacy Dragila (USA) 4.60 No competitor
2001 Stacy Dragila (USA) 4.75 9 Janine Whitlock 4.35
2003 Svetlana Feofanova (RUS) 4.75 No competitor
2005 Yelena Isinbayeva (RUS) 5.01 NQ Janine Whitlock 4.40
2007 Yelena Isinbayeva (RUS) 4.80 NQ Kate Dennison 4.20
2009 Anna Rogowska (POL) 4.75 6 Kate Dennison 4.55
2011 Fabiana Murer (BRA) 4.85 NQ Kate Dennison 4.50
2013 Yelena Isinbayeva (RUS) 4.89 No competitor
Points table (8 for 1st etc)
1. RUS 76.5
2. POL 42.5
3. USA 39
4. GER 35.5
5. CZE 21
6. BRA 17.5
7. AUS 11
8. CUB 10
9. CHN 8
10. UKR 7
11= HUN 5
11= FRA 5
13= GBR 3
13= ISL 3