There are not many athletes who can outdo Jamaican sprint superstar Bolt, but Isinbayeva managed that in stunning fashion as she won a third world title at a packed, partisan Luzhniki Stadium late Tuesday.
A capacity, vociferous crowd egged on the 31-year-old, who had not won a major global championships since her triumph at the Beijing Olympics in 2008.
A world record in 2009 and a bronze at last year’s London Games aside, many had written off the Russian, attention refocusing on American Jennifer Suhr.
But Isinbayeva’s performance in an utterly gripping pole vault competition buried any talk that she was a spent force.
“The era of Yelena Isinbayeva is back, it never finished! I’m the pole vault queen, the crown is mine!” the animated Isinbayeva hollered after winning with a best vault of 4.89 metres.
Suhr took silver from Cuban Yarilys Silva on countback at 4.82m, and the duo now know the crown will pass to another vaulter at the next worlds in Beijing in 2015 as Isinbayeva confirmed her intention to take a break to have a baby.
“It’s a small women’s break of 18 months, a nine-month pregnancy and nine months caring for the baby,” the former gymnast said.
“I’m not retiring for the moment. I’m just taking a break to have a baby and then I’ll try to come back for Rio, but only on condition that I’m vaulting well.
“If something goes wrong, then I’ll officially retire.”
For that reason, a lot was riding on Tuesday’s outing at her home stadium, where she dubbed the support “colossal”.
“It might be my last meet. If I leave it there, I can quit sport with a clean heart.
“I don’t think any female athlete’s done what I have done,” she said in reference to her collection of medals, two Olympic and three world golds, and 28 world records (13 indoor and 15 outdoor).
A third world title it might have been, but that did not diminish its importance in the mind of Isinbayeva, who likened the on-track experience with her Olympic victories despite a rough run-up to the worlds.
“I was the only one on the track as everything else had finished, like in Athens and Beijing, which was nice. All the attention was concentrated on me. It’s really an amazing feeling,” she said.
“I felt at home. If the Olympics had been in Russia last year, the results would have been different than they had been in London.
“I had the energy of the public at Luzhniki behind me, I won because I was at home. I had my family and my coach in the stands.”
She added: “It was different in Beijing and Athens because I won being the hands-down favourite. I’d arrived at the two Olympics winning everything and not knowing what defeat was about.
“In the run-up to the Moscow worlds, I’d suffered so many defeats and injuries.”
Isinbayeva credited coach Evgeniy Trofimov with transforming her back to a level at which she was happy, and also praised Ukrainian former six-time world men’s pole vault champion Sergey Bubka.
Trofimov was the Russian’s first coach but has only been back on the scene since 2010, Isinbayeva crediting him with “resurrecting” her.
“When I started working with Evgeniy Trofimov, he gave me back hope and faith in myself. He promised me to bring me back to my level, to be number one in the world again,” she said.
“Sergey Bubka was a role model for me. He showed that anything is possible with hard work if you believe in your goal and don’t stray from your path.”
Soaking up an incredible atmosphere where all attention was focused on her, Isinbayeva took three shots at a world record 5.07m.
She failed in all three attempts, but predicted that the world record would “soon come”.
“I was tired by 5.07, but technically the jumps were solid. I have two more competitions this season (in Stockholm and Zurich), so I’ll try again.
“The world record will come, I’m sure.”