Watching her every move like a hawk from his front row seat in the Luzhniki Stadium, Yefgeny Trofimov never lost faith that Yelena Isinbayeva could rise again.
The white-haired and moustachioed coach was there when the Russian began her journey to pole vault greatness as a 15-year-old, and it was fitting that she ran to embrace Trofimov first after her “resurrection”.
Isinbayeva, who has jumped higher than any female vaulter, secured a third world title in front of an ecstatic crowd on Tuesday, lighting up a world championships that has desperately needed a big-name homegrown winner.
After announcing she would take a second break from a sport she has redefined with countless world records, Isinbayeva hailed Trofimov as the man behind her rejuvenation following a loss of form.
“Before 2009, I’d never faced defeat. I’d never faced troubles or difficulties. Everything was easy to me, but since 2009 I’ve been very, very down,” she told reporters.
“I lost everything. Of course it hurt me a lot. I thought maybe I have to stop because I’m not able to jump higher anymore. But my coach said: ‘don’t give up, don’t give up, I believe in you, soon you will come back to your top’.”
Isinbayeva split with Trofimov after her first Olympic gold in 2004 to team up with Ukraine pole vault great Sergey Bubka’s mentor Vitaly Petrov.
Her success continued until, out-of-form, she put away her poles in 2010, taking 11 months out before returning to the sport and rekindling her partnership with Trofimov.
She took bronze at last year’s London Olympics, thought about retiring then, but got her appetite for vaulting back.
“He was a wise man; he never forced me, he listened to me. So then in March he said, ‘Shall we try, let’s give it a shot’ That’s how it all began,” she added.
“He never put his arms down, he always believed in me,” she said. “He resurrected me, he resuscitated me. Instilled so much faith, he promised me that I would return to my best.”