SAO PAULO — The first thing Fabiana Murer will do when she arrives in London for the Olympics is tell everyone to stay away from her poles.
The world pole vault champion lost a chance to compete for a medal in Beijing because one of her poles was misplaced in the final, so the Brazilian is promising to keep a close eye on her equipment to make sure nothing will get in the way this time.
The mishap in 2008 became one of the greatest disappointments of her career, and although she says she has been able to put it in the past, Murer said the incident has made her more mindful about all the off-the-track details that can affect her performance when it matters.
“After what happened in Beijing, I’ll always go check to see if all the poles are there, if the angle of the landing mattress is correct,” she said. “I’ll check everything, because if there is anything wrong I can fix it before the competition starts.”
Murer said she will ask London Games organizers to inform the Brazilian team every time they have to handle her poles, giving her total control over what happens to the equipment. She said she will reinforce the request in the technical meeting with all competitors before the event, alerting officials of her concerns. A small crack or a slight dent on a pole could eventually make a difference, Murer said.
Murer was already taking these types of precautions last year when she won her first world title in Daegu, South Korea.
But unfortunately that wasn’t the case in Beijing.
Murer made it to the pole vault final in the 2008 Games, but didn’t get far because she said organizers misplaced one of her poles at the Bird’s Nest.
She said she gave all of her poles to organizers so they could place them at the competition’s venue, but one of them got mixed up with the equipment of another athlete and was returned to the athlete’s village. Pole vaulters use several types of poles in the same event, depending on the height they are attempting to clear.
Murer couldn’t find the pole needed to clear 4.55 meters and had to go directly to the one used for the 4.65 mark, which she said disrupted her entire routine for the final. She kept pacing back and forth looking for the pole, waving her arms and even trying to stop the competition until officials could help her find it.
Murer finished 10th among the 12 finalists after a jump of 4.45 meters. Her personal best then was 4.80, which would have been good enough for silver.
At the time, in tears, she said: “It feels like they stole these Olympics from me. I’ve never seen anything like this.”
She was so disappointed that she said she would never return to China to compete again.
Organizers sent her a letter the next day apologizing for the incident, but said that ultimately it was Murer’s responsibility to check her equipment before the final started.