By Justin Palmer
MOSCOW (Reuters) – Yelena Isinbayeva, the greatest woman pole vaulter of all time, thrilled a partisan home crowd roaring her every jump when she landed the third and probably last world title of her illustrious career on Tuesday.
The Russian, twice Olympic champion and world outdoor record holder, was the only vaulter to clear 4.89 meters.
It was a season’s best leap for the 31-year-old, the first woman to clear the revered five meters barrier, who said before the championships that she would retire.
American Olympic champion Jenn Surh took silver and Cuban Yarisley Silva bronze. Both failed at 4.89 after clearing 4.82.
After a nervous start when she failed with her first attempt after entering the competition at 4.65, a measure of her confidence with her rivals already up and running, Isinbayeva grew in stature.
With a chorus of “Yelena Yelena” reverberating around the Luzhniki stadium, the biggest crowd of a poorly attended championships so far, each clearance was greeted by a cacophony of approval.
Isinbayeva rewarded the support with punches in the air and squeals of delight. When gold was assured she ran to the crowd and embraced her coach.
Milking the moment and urging the crowd to raise the decibel level further, she asked for the bar to be raised to 5.07, one centimeter above the world record she set in 2009.
Three unsuccessful attempts followed but it could not spoil the former gymnast’s celebrations as she set off for a lap of the track which featured a cartwheel and back-flip.
Isinbayeva was virtually unbeatable between 2003 and 2008, when she kept raising the bar higher and higher, often by a centimeter at a time.
But plagued by injury and poor form and after failing to register a height in the 2009 world championships, she decided to take a break from the sport, returning after an 11-month absence.
She was again outside the medals at the 2011 worlds but took bronze at last year’s London Olympics.
(Editing by Ed Osmond)