A women’s pole vault campaign which was meandering along with little plotline has suddenly exploded into life over the past few weeks thanks to Yarisley Silva.
The world indoor champion, who had made an unspectacular start to the season, suddenly catapulted to the top of the world lists when securing the Pan American title with 4.85m. The Cuban then claimed victory at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Stockholm before solidifying her position at No.3 on the world all-time list with a 4.91m clearance in Beckum.
The 28-year-old, who landed a world bronze medal in Moscow two years ago and Olympic silver in London, is now regarded as clear favourite to climb top of the podium in Beijing and it will be interesting to see how she fares in the pressure of expectations in the Bird’s Nest Stadium.
Among her main opposition will be Greece’s three-time IAAF Diamond League winner Nikoleta Kyriakopoulou who has advanced her personal best by 12 centimetres this season with a series of impressive performances. The 29-year-old has banked impressive victories in Shanghai, Paris and London and is sure to be a stubborn obstacle for Silva to overcome.
Veteran Brazilian Fabiana Murer could be forgiven for having half an eye on next year’s Rio Olympics, but the 2011 world champion is in good form as evinced by IAAF Diamond League wins in Birmingham and New York. She had to settle for silver behind Silva at the Pan American Games, but with a season’s best of 4.80m outdoors and 4.83m indoors, Murer cannot be discounted.
Jenn Suhr, the Olympic pole vault champion, has had a quiet build up with just six outdoor competitions this year. A formidable big-time performer, she landed the US title with a season’s best of 4.82m, but she will be looking for much more than the 4.60m she vaulted to take bronze at the Pan American Games.
Other vaulters looking to fire themselves into medal contention include Russian champion Anzhelika Sidorova, who cleared an outdoor personal best of 4.79m at the London IAAF Diamond League meeting last month.
Besides Suhr, a strong US team is bolstered by Sandi Morris, who this year has advance her personal best by 21 centimetres to 4.76m, and NCAA champion Demi Payne, who has cleared 4.71m.
The vastly experienced German Silke Spiegelburg, who has vaulted 4.75m this year, has twice finished fourth at the IAAF World Championships and will be looking to finally secure a spot on the podium in Beijing.
Greece’s US-based European silver medallist Ekaterini Stefanidi equalled her outdoor personal best of 4.71m in Des Moines earlier this year and could also figure.
Other entrants include China’s IAAF Continental Cup winner Li Ling, 2010 European bronze medallist Lisa Ryzih, world indoor silver medallist Jirina Ptacnikova of the Czech Republic and Swiss record-holder Nicole Buchler.