There were no tears at the end of this reign, no face buried in her hands, sobbing.
Yelena Isinbayeva has abdicated her Olympic pole-vaulting throne after consecutive victories in Athens and Beijing. But she stepped down at Olympic Stadium Monday with laughter and a bronze-medal-winning lap of the track with the Russian flag billowing behind her, accompanied by American Jennifer Suhr, the champion, and silver medallist Yarisley Silva of Cuba.
The 30-year-old from Volgograd never found her rhythm in wet, gusty conditions; she missed her opening height at 4.55 metres, cleared 4.65 and 4.70, twice missed 4.75 then took down the bar at 4.80, essentially giving herself the boot.
Suhr, the silver medallist in Beijing, made three clean jumps of 4.55, 4.70 and 4.75. She and Silva both failed three times attempting 4.80, but with fewer jumps made on the night, Suhr took the gold.
Isinbayeva’s Olympic record of 5.05 from Beijing and her 5.06 world record from 2009 were in no danger on this night, light rain and capricious winds a challenge for anything or any-one airborne. Not achieved was the Russian’s goal of becoming the first woman in Olympic history to win her event in three consecutive Games.
The first question for the dethroned queen was from an America reporter, who wondered how disappointed she was to have lost her title.
“What ? ! ” Isinbayeva demanded. “I am so happy that I won the bronze! That is important. You saw how terrible the weather was today. Some of the girls were not able to jump 4.40 [the qualification standard].”
Suhr and Silva found a little more in the tank, although this was far from the wonderful duel that the event has served up the last two Olympics.
Four years ago, a “kick some Russian butt” remark by Suhr heading to Beijing put Isinbayeva’s nose badly out of joint. Isinbayeva said she felt under tremendous pressure in London She said she’s withdrawing from two lucrative meets in Brussels and Stockholm, but will be back next year with the world athletics championships coming to Moscow.
By: Dave Stubbs