Monaco: Pole vault queen Yelena Isinbayeva, batteries fully recharged after she decided to take an indefinite sabbatical last April, has now set her sights on breaking Sergei Bubka’s mark of 35 world records.
“It’s not an ambition, it’s a goal,” Isinbayeva told reporters in an interview at her home in Monaco.
“Sergei fully supports me, he says he will be very happy when I do it. He says ‘for you it will be easier now because you have a certain goal. When I started jumping I didn’t know how many records I could set’.”
Ukrainian Bubka, who mentors the 28-year-old Russian, retired after the 2000 Sydney Olympics following a glittering career during which he set 35 outdoor and indoor world records. Isinbayeva, the first woman to vault five metres, has 27 world records to her name.
Isinbayeva spoke frankly about the physical and mental exhaustion which prompted her decision to take a lengthy break after competing constantly since 1998.
She failed to defend her world outdoor title in Berlin last year and finished fourth in the world indoor championships in Doha this year.
“After my defeat in Berlin I was feeling completely empty inside,” Isinbayeva said. “I was tired and I had emotions from the competition.
“I thought, maybe, I should take some rest after the defeat, or was it just some mistake, an uncontrollable situation from which I could recover?
Blow To Ego
“It was a huge kick to my ego because I like to be on top and break world records.
“Now I was just nobody. I’d been defeated and was recuperating in Monaco. I was doing nothing. Then in Zurich I set a new world record and realised the defeat was in the past and I was great again.
“I was full of emotions. The adrenaline showed I was fully motivated and I finished my season good.”
But after raising her world record to 5.06 metres in Zurich, the twice Olympic champion’s world came tumbling down again after she decided to compete in Doha despite missing six weeks’ training with a knee injury.
“I was physically tired but I felt Doha was important and I had to perform at my best,” she said.
“However, I went to the competition completely destroyed. I didn’t want to compete, I just wanted to rest. My body was completely empty, emotionally and physically.”
Even after leading the qualifiers for the final, Isinbayeva was not surprised when she slumped to fourth place.
“I did 4.55 metres with my third attempt to qualify and that was a signal something was wrong,” she recalled. “Then in the final I was not even disappointed when I was defeated.
“All I could think was ‘I’m tired, I’m tired’. The body needed a rest because for 10 or more years I was testing my body all the time in training and competition.
“As a human being, sooner or later. people get tired mentally and physically. I never missed an indoor season and I always performed at the main competitions, the world championships and the Olympics.
World Title Goals
“I never had a rest, it was not necessary. But I just felt this second defeat in a major championships, told me that I should have a rest from competition in the summer.”
After consulting Bubka and coach Vitaliy Petrov, Isinbayeva took time out to visit her family in her home town of Volgograd and her sister who lives in Tokyo. She jogged for pleasure and thoroughly enjoyed the absence of pressure in her life.
Isinbayeva resumed fulltime training under Petrov in Formia in June and plans to open her season at the Russian Winter meeting in Moscow on Feb. 6.
“When I started my training I was doing mainly physical exercises running long, and short distance running,” she said.
“I did basic work to develop my body and speed and check my pole vault technique.
“From March until September, I didn’t touch a pole and I didn’t wish to touch it. My first session from eight steps was at the beginning of October.”
Isinbayeva’s immediate goals are to win the European indoor and world outdoor titles this year.
“My coach says he can see me jumping at a level of 5.25 to 5.30 metres. I have to believe him because all this time when I was on my break and down with myself, he and my sports company Li-Ning in China supported me very well.
“When athletes have a kind of rest the sponsors try to stop the money or they try to cut many things, but they haven’t and that was very kind of them.
“Now I’m full of emotions and motivated for this comeback because when I leave a normal life away from competition I realise that I miss my sports world.
“I was living in, like a vacuum, no one could get in contact with me.”