Zoe Brown suffered a nightmarish experience in the Pole Vault at the Games in Hampden Park when she was eliminated along with four other competitors at the opening height of 3.80 metres in a competition battered by horrendous weather conditions.
The 30 year old Antrim fitness instructor had been tipped as a firm medal contender following her recent fifth Northern Ireland record this year of 4.45 metres. This placed her second in the Commonwealth behind Australia’s Alana Boyd who led with 4.65 metres
None of this appeared relevant as the Pole Vault competition eventally progressed in driving wind and rain following a 45 minutes delay. Athletics observers commented that in normal circumstances a pole vault contest, subject to such weather, would have have been cancelled but this was after all the Commonwealth Games and had to go ahead.
Zoe’s first attempt failed in the midst of a fierce deluge. She then made much better attempts at her next two efforts and was well clear on her final attempt. However she then dragged the bar down on her descent with a thigh.
A disbelieving Brown was initially stunned that she had exited the biggest competition of her life by failing at a height which she would start with in a training session
However, reality then quickly set in and she dissolved into tears while the rain continued to pour down.
While sport is unforgiving at this level, key decisions by an athlete can make the difference between success and failure. For example the Welsh athlete Sally Peake is someone whom Zoe has consistently defeated this year. However Sally delayed her entry into the competition until the 4 metres mark in the hope that the weather conditions would improve.
This was precisely what happened and she then went on to clear 4.25 metres in better weather to take silver. Gold went to defending champion Alana Boyd of Australia with 4.50 metres. Boyd’s father won the Commonwealth pole vault title in 1982.
A very emotional Zoe said: “The warm up was very difficult and I took a few spills which affected my confidence. In 16 years vaulting I have never experienced weather conditions like it.
“As my confidence was low I decided to go in for a low height of 3.80 metres to ensure that I at least cleared one height. This plan did not work out as the weather conditions were at their worst and it ensured that 60 per cent of the field was eliminated.
“I cleared the bar on two of my vaults but knocked it down as my stance was wrong. The conditions were dangerous at times. I did what I thought was right and I am very disappointed. Sport is very cruel at times and it is a very hard pill to swallow. The experience was bitter sweet as the support from the crowd was incredible.”
Zoe has an opportunity to compete again at a high level in the European Championships in Zurich in two weeks’ time.
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