Alana Boyd knows that a special height on a pivotal night at the WA Athletics Stadium on February 24 – before fewer than 200 officials, parents, friends and workmates – won’t match the primordial hum created by 80,000 people during the London Games at Olympic Park on August 6.
That doesn’t faze the 28-year-old pole vaulter.
All she wants to match is the height – or beat it – which she reached at the club meeting in Mt Claremont as 10 of her workmates from a construction company, enjoying a pizza and a drink in the stands, roundly celebrated the Australian record leap of 4.76m.
Reigning Olympic champion Steve Hooker, on a sabbatical from competition to get his mind right, was urging her on while renowned WAIS coach Alex Parnov, who also was on hand with his wife, Nadia, videoed Boyd’s jumps.
Boyd’s mother, Denise, and father, Ray, who had coached his daughter, were on the Gold Coast receiving text messages on Alana’s progress.
The record which Alana had chased for five years was vindication of the decision by her parents and herself to move west to work under Parnov.
“I rang home from an ice bath after the event and while they were excited, I think they thought, as well as I, that I was capable of jumping into the seventies,” Boyd said yesterday before her departure tomorrow for the Australian Flame’s camp in Cologne, Germany.
“Dad’s known for years what he thinks I’m capable of, so it probably wasn’t a surprise for him, it was more a case of ‘it’s about time’.”
Alana Boyd comes from good athletic stock. Ray won the pole vault at the 1982 Brisbane Commonwealth Games and mum Denise (Robertson) triumphed in the 200m at the Edmonton Games and made two Olympic finals in the event.
“Jumping with my dad on the Gold Coast, we knew there was potential in there, we just had to draw it out,” Boyd said.
“That’s why he said we needed to spend some time with Alex. He wanted to do that because he’s my dad.”
After moving to Perth 2 1/2 years ago, it’s all come in a rush for Boyd, who has battled injury concerns throughout her career, which peaked in international competition when she won gold at the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi in 2010, providing the family with a rare golden treble.
Boyd had regularly cleared 4.60m this year in lead-up events to the February jump which broke Kym Howe’s Australian record.
“The good thing is that I’m consistently around those heights and hopefully now for the European season I can be jumping 65 to 70 every time out, and that’s when you can pop out one into the 80s,” Boyd said.
“The indications are that I’m in better shape than I was in the lead-up into the domestic season.”
While her career is on the up, Boyd does not want to get ahead of herself. But every day or so she checks a website to learn whether her name remains on top of a noteworthy list.
It’s a natural curiosity because her 4.76m performance is the best height this year in the world for an outdoor jump, which is displayed on the IAAF website.
So far, so good.
She knows the order is subject to a shuffle because her height will come under serious assault when the northern European vaulters swing from indoors to outdoor competition.
Even so, if Boyd could slip into a time capsule and zip back to the 2008 Beijing Olympics with that height, she’d be the proud owner of a bronze medal.
Russian Svetlana Feofanova beat countrywoman Yulia Golubchikova in Beijing on countback for the bronze medal with a height of 4.75m.
American Jennifer Stucznski (now Suhr) took silver with 4.80m and the sport’s undisputed star, Elena Isinbayeva, set a world record 5.05m for gold.
Suhr has a 2012 outdoor height of 4.65m, the same mark achieved by Brazilian Yarisley Silva, but five of the top seven spots are occupied by Boyd.
“I’m still holding on to the No.1 ranking, which is nice, and I’ve got a few others still in there,” Boyd said.
“But the Europeans and the Americans jump indoors for the first couple of months of the year.
“Isinbayeva has jumped 5.01 indoors this season, Jen Suhr has done 88 (4.88m) and Great Britain’s Holly Bleasdale is the new kid on the block, who has a 4.87, but nowhere near that outdoors.”
A 4.76m jump would have ranked Boyd sixth in the world last year and she is hoping it will place her in a similar position leading into the London Olympics.
“Hopefully, I can go into London in a top-six position and be a contender,” she said.
Despite entering her twilight years, Boyd said she was in optimum mental and physical shape to reap the rewards of the years of hard work and learning.
“I have had a lot of injuries over the years and a lot of disappointments, and made a lot of sacrifices to get to where I am,” she said.
“I took the approach that when I came here I wasn’t going to waste the opportunities because I’m not getting any younger. It’s now or never.
“Now it’s a matter of going to Europe this summer season and going, ‘OK, I can do it when it counts’.”
Boyd said her first ambition was to make the final at the Games after failing to crack a top-12 spot at the world championships in Daegu last August, when she was edged into 13th with a best leap of 4.50m.
I have had a lot of injuries over the years and a lot of disappointments, and made a lot of sacrifices to get to where I am. ” *Alana Boyd *
By RAY WILSON