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Last Updated: Friday, 12 August 2005, 17:50 GMT 18:50 UK
Yelena's in pole position
Yelena Isinbayeva
Yelena Isinbayeva is taking the world of pole vaulting by storm.

She became the first woman to clear five metres (almost a foot higher than a double-decker bus) and added the world crown to her Olympic gold with a new world mark of 5.01m.

BBC Sport investigates the allure of the event and why the Russian is such a dominant force.

By Steve Rippon
GB pole vault coach

WHAT IS SO SPECIAL ABOUT YELENA ISINBAYEVA?

She is one of the few female pole vaulters I look at and think her technique is as good as the men's.

In fact, the second part of her jump is probably better than any male pole vaulter currently competing.

She has a fantastic technique, she's quite tall (almost 5ft 9in) and she runs extremely well.

SO WHAT WOULD THE PERFECT VAULTER LOOK LIKE?

For the seniors, you would be looking for a female of about 5ft 9in and 60kg, or a male of 6ft 3in upwards and 80kg maximum.

They would probably have long legs and they would be light, strong, fast and gymnastic.

Yelena Isinbayeva is the first woman to clear five metres

The great thing about pole vault is that you do still get a huge variety of body sizes doing it.

If you are small, you will grip the bar lower and push further off it, while taller athletes grip higher on the pole but are not as gymnastic.

The two do actually balance each other out.

On television I heard a pole vaulter being described as needing to have indispensable audacity. In other words - a little bit crazy.

They need to have an X-factor, to be the type of person who will go high-board diving or bungee jumping.

DOES GYMNASTIC ABILITY HELP IN POLE VAULTING?

The first generation of female pole vaulters used to be gymnasts, but they then outgrew the sport and tried pole vault.

Most of them were too small and too slow, but now we've got a new generation coming through.

They are the ones who have been pole vaulters or athletes and then they've learnt gymnastics to make them better.

IS IT SCARY TO BE JUMPING SO HIGH UP?

You will find that people who start pole vaulting get totally hooked.

You get instantaneous feedback. If you're successful, the bar stays up; if you don't make the jump, it comes down.

In the long jump or shot put you have to wait until it's measured, or in the 100m or 1500m you have to wait for the time to come up.

Pole vault and high jump are the only two track and field events where you get instant satisfaction on what you have achieved.

Pole vaulting is an extreme sport and is an absolute adrenalin rush.

HOW EASY IS IT TO START POLE VAULTING?

A good age to start is 12 or 13 because you are beginning to develop the upper body strength required to get yourself upside down on the pole.

There is no maximum age but no real minimum. I've even seen kids as young as four or five pole vaulting.

Olympic champ Tim Mack reigned supreme in Athens
Olympic champ Tim Mack flying in Athens
If kids do it as part of a game, then they can start at any age.

No matter how old you are, you won't go straight into the big jumps when you start.

In the first year I will teach a beginner to jump with a stick or a pole that doesn't bend. Beginners learn bad habits jumping with a soft pole as they end up shortening it.

The poles come in different lengths and stiffness and we would get a pole of suitable length - about 10 or 11 feet long.

Initial jumps would be made in a sand pit and they would spend at least a month in there.

A game we do with kids and beginners is to draw a river in a sandpit and get them to jump over that. Distance is the key, not height.

And over time, it will soon be on to the big jumps!



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