BEIJING (AP) — With a strange choice for background music blaring around the Bird’s Nest, Yarisley Silva attempted to clear 5.01 meters in the pole vault shortly after winning her first gold medal at the world championships.
The song, “Another One Bites the Dust” by Queen, didn’t affect her.
For Silva, the only thing biting the dust was the self-doubt that had crept into her pre-vault routine. She clinched the title on her third and final attempt at 4.90, ensuring she beat 2011 world champion Fabiana Murer of Brazil. The shot at 5.01 was just a no-pressure bid for a personal record and to equal the championship mark.
“It was my hardest and most tense competition. I enjoyed myself, but I also suffered greatly,” Silva said, crying. “It’s been a very hard year, where I had to battle psychological issues throughout. I had problems holding on to the pole and starting my jumps, getting my head right. The doctors helped me a lot to overcome them.”
The 28-year-old Cuban didn’t win easily, though, coming within one jump of going out at 4.70 and 4.90, each time when Murer had either cleared the height or still had another attempt. Four competitors had been flawless up to 4.70.
Silva lost the 2012 Olympic gold medal to Jenn Suhr — both cleared the same height in London but the American vaulter won on a countback. Silva didn’t qualify for the final at the Beijing Olympics, and won a bronze medal at the world championships in 2013.
On Wednesday, Silva was locked in a contest with Murer and Nikoleta Kyriakopoulou of Greece, who was the first to clear 4.80 to be guaranteed a medal. Silva and Murer cleared 4.85 and Kyriakopoulou passed on that height after missing one attempt.
“My first two misses where a tactical mistake. I got very nervous. Then I changed poles,” Silva said. “I told myself l needed to change history here … and I took a thorn out of my side tonight.”
Kyriakopoulou took bronze while Suhr, the Olympic champion, and U.S. teammate Sandi Morris finished in a share of fourth place after failing to clear 4.80.
The focus will turn to the world indoor championships next year in Portland, and then to the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, where Murer plans to retire on home soil.
“Now I want Olympic gold, and I know it will be tough with (world-record holder Yelena) Isinbayeva back and Murer, who was very good today,” Silva said. “But I want to it do for my country.”