TrackTown blog from Beijing: Pole vaulters eye Portland

All three medalists from the women's pole vault competition at the 2015 IAAF World Championships are looking forward to the 2016 IAAF World Indoor Championships in Portland this March to kick off the Olympic year. Cuba's Yarisley Silva (center) won gold in Beijing, while Brazil's Fabiana Murer (left) took silver and Greece's Nikoleta Kyriakopoulou earned bronze.

BEIJING – Even the absence of the great Elena Isinbaeva, Russia’s nine-time gold medalist on a global stage, and a slightly off day for U.S. record-holder Jen Suhr couldn’t diminish the quality of the women’s pole vault competition on Wednesday at the 15th IAAF World Track & Field Championships.

A dozen women were still vaulting past 14 feet, 9 inches (4.50m) – the most ever at a World Championships – and seven continued past 15-5 (4.70m) – again the most ever. Five of those seven women clearing 15-5 even had clean slates, with zero misses in the competition.

Without a dominant favorite, it appeared than any of the competitors could medal, or even win on this night.

In the end, it was 28-year-old Cuban Yarisley Silva who prevailed. Silva twice came through on third-attempt clearances and her clutch vault over 16-0 ¾ (4.90m) moved her past Brazil’s Fabiana Murer into the gold medal spot on the podium. Murer, who was the World Champion indoors in Doha 2010 and outdoors in Daegu 2011, had to be content with the silver.

Greece’s Nikoleta Kyriakopoulou had her best night ever at a major championship. She was briefly in the lead, clearing 15-9 on her first try, before seeing Murer and Silva in turn get over 15-11 to jump back in front of her.

Americans Suhr and Sandi Morris, the NCAA indoor champion from Arkansas, tied for fourth place with Sweden’s Angelica Bengtsson. Morris, 23, is a rising star in the event, and well-known to those in attendance at Hayward Field for her outstanding performances at the NCAA and U..S Championships earlier this summer.

Just 16 years ago, at the 1999 World Championships in Seveille, Spain, Stacy Dragila set the world record in the pole vault at 15-1 (4.60m). That height has now become a routine clearance for the world’s top female vaulters, as was evidenced on this evening in Beijing, and the depth internationally is growing all the time.

Fortunately for U.S. track and field fans, the 2016 World Indoor Championships in Portland (March 17-20) will be an unbelievable opportunity to see these women compete first-hand.

Silva won gold at the last World Indoor Championships two years ago in Sopot, Poland, and said she loves the chance to compete in the indoor environment with no wind or other weather conditions to deal with. Her plans are not yet set, but she hopes to be in Oregon next March.

The veteran Murer, who has been vaulting for 18 years, said she plans to retire after the 2016 Summer Olympics in her native Brazil. But her Olympic year plans definitely include an appearance at the Moda Center on the first day of the World Indoor Championships.

Cuba's Yarisley Silva cleared 16 feet, 3/4 inch (4.90m) to win the gold medal in the pole vault at the IAAF World Championships in Beijing.

Cuba’s Yarisley Silva cleared 16 feet, 3/4 inch (4.90m) to win the gold medal in the pole vault at the IAAF World Championships in Beijing.

“Of course, I will do indoors,” Murer said. “I want to be in Portland. I think it will be a nice competition for pole vault with one special day just for pole vault. I want to be there and it will be nice to compete with these girls again and with more girls, of course, and the (top) Americans.”

Kyriakopoulou was happy to have had the chance to “take my revenge” in the Bird’s Nest after not making the pole vault final at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. She said right now she is focused on winning the Diamond League title in the upcoming Zurich Weltklasse Meet, but went on to say, “Next year, my second stop is in Portland for the World Indoor Championships and my third stop will be Rio.”


Yego brings home men’s javelin title to Kenya

BEIJING – Kenyan javelin thrower Julius Yego started to garner widespread attention a few years ago as he made a name for himself on the Diamond League circuit, as well as with a fourth-place finish at the 2013 IAAF World Championships in Moscow.

It was something of a curiosity – who had ever heard of a Kenyan athlete throwing the javelin. Kenyans ran distance races and marathons, usually very well. They didn’t do field events.

Yego is now officially no longer a curiosity. He is a world champion.

Yego needed a big throw on his third attempt to stay alive in the javelin finals on Wednesday night, and he got it. Using the technique of simultaneously launching the javelin and his body, Yego’s throw sailed 304 feet, 2 inches (92.72m), and brought a thunderous roar from the large crowd at the Bird’s Nest Stadium. It was not only a personal best and an African record, but also gave Kenya its first-ever gold medal in a field event at the World Championships.

Julius Yego (center) delivered Kenya's first World Championship gold medal in a field event when he won the javelin. Egypt's Ihab Abdelrahman El Sayed (left) and Finland's Tero Pitkamaki took silver and bronze, respectively.

Julius Yego (center) delivered Kenya’s first World Championship gold medal in a field event when he won the javelin. Egypt’s Ihab Abdelrahman El Sayed (left) and Finland’s Tero Pitkamaki took silver and bronze, respectively.

Asked about his development in the event, the soft-spoken Yego said, “It’s a talent in me. I was born with it. I could run, but not as fast as these (other) Kenyans. Javelin is the sport I love – I needed to do it because it is the sport I love.

“No one introduced me to this sport – it is the sport I was dreaming of when I was still a young boy . . . when we were playing games and throwing sticks . . . at that time I was doing very well of throwing the stick in school and I knew I could throw the javelin very well in the future.”

Yego’s love affair with the javelin began to blossom after he watched the 2004 Olympic Games on TV. He began to study the technique by watching the top throwers on YouTube. He won his first national title in 2008, and a career was born.

Yego, just 26 years of age, said he is not done yet. The student of the sport he loves plans to keep working hard.

“Javelin is more than anything (based on) technique. I know I can improve and throw more than 92 (meters). I will keep working on my technique.”