It is awards time again, with voting entering the final week for the prestigious European Athletics titles of male and female Athlete of the Year and male and female Rising Star. Fans and media can vote (details below) until this Friday – 27 September – at midnight (CET).
It has been spectacular summer for track and field with so many different names in the running for the titles. Today, in a series of profiles of the main contenders, we look at a woman whose glory was the loudest of them all.
Whatever Yelena Isinbayeva could have hoped for when she woke up on the morning of the pole vault final in Moscow, the outcome was probably not even in her wildest dreams.
Not the fact that she won, because as a double world champion, the desire for a third title was the forefront of her professional approach to this summer.
But when she hit the mat, after clearing the height of 4.89m which brought her gold, the noise which erupted in the Luzhniki Stadium was incredible.
“I won because I was at home,” said Isinbayeva, 31. “I want to thank all the fans, their support made it happen.”
Chants of “Yelena, Yelena” had greeted each clearance on the night which will be talked about most when these IAAF World Championships are remembered.
For the moment, forget her world records, her Olympic glories, her status as the greatest woman pole vaulter of all time. In Moscow, the pressure was perhaps never greater on this Russian athlete who delivered the performance of her life because of that.
Of course she has cleared greater heights. Her world record of 5.06m has stood now since 2009, but this year was not about creating new landmarks. It was about providing herself with the personal triumph of knowing that having not won a major title for five years, she could do it again.
She summed up her feelings perfectly as she celebrated her glory. “This victory,” said Isinbayeva, “is the most precious in all my career. I am the pole vault queen.”
Since winning Olympic gold in Beijing in 2008 and then taking the world record to a new level in Zurich 12 months later, there had been a lull in her glorious reign.
She had been injured, and then when she won bronze at the Olympics in London in 2012, it was obvious to wonder whether the sport had seen the best of her.
The answer was ‘no, it had not’ and it is why she is so much in the running for the title as the female European Athlete of the Year.
When she triumphed in Moscow, she praised her coach Yefgeny Trofimov. Isinbayeva said to Reuters: “It is all thanks to him, he is a genius, he helped me get my world title back.”
The inspiration he gave her could not be lost, it was a fitting tribute, but Isinbayeva herself deserves a fair bit of the credit too.
It takes nerves of steel to achieve what she did this summer.
The noise might have been immense, but the quiet which descended upon the arena before she vaulted was, if anything, more dramatic.
Out there alone, Isinbayeva was expected to do what she had done so many times perform – only this time the eyes of the nation were literally all on her.
How she blocked that pressure out, only she will know.
But when she went over the bar, and looked up to see it still intact, she created a moment that will be talked about for years and signalled, with stunning brilliance, her reunion with an old friend – the gold medal.
If you think Yelena Isinbayeva should be Female European Athlete of the Year, here is how to vote.