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Page last updated at 06:41 GMT, Tuesday, 5 August 2008 07:41 UK

Ten to watch: Yelena Isinbayeva

Isinbayeva montage

By Liam Lodge

Russian pole vault star Yelena Isinbayeva will start the Beijing Olympics as favourite for the gold medal.

The 26-year-old - from Volgograd - is one of the current greats of athletics, holding both the indoor and outdoor world records.

She is the reigning Olympic Champion and has also won the World Championships on two occasions. On 22 July 2005 at Crystal Palace she became the first female pole vaulter in history to clear 5.00m.

On 29 July this year she improved the record to 5.04m in Monaco at the Super Grand Prix event. This was the 23rd world record (13 outdoor and 10 indoor) that Isinbayeva has set, illustrating her dominance of the sport in recent years.

PATH TO THE PODIUM

2008 form: In March Isinbayeva won her third World Indoor Championship in Valencia. The 5.04m vault in Monaco was her second outdoor world record in three years, proving she is back to her best.

sergey bubka
Isinbayeva's idol is pole vault legend Sergey Bubka

Rivals: Isinbayeva was pushed all the way at the World Indoor Championships by fellow 26-year-old American Jennifer Stuczynski, winning with fewer attempts after both women jumped 4.75m. Compatriot Svetlana Feofanova, 28, has been a close rival for a long time. Two other athletes vying for medals are Poland's Monika Pyrek and Brazilian Fabiana Murer, both 27.

How she could win: She will start as favourite for the Olympic title. Her latest world record vault serves as an ominous message to the other competitors that she is in top form. If Isinbayeva performs as expected she should take home her second Olympic gold medal.

What she says: "I'm in a good shape, I just need to keep my condition that way until the Olympics. I wanted to improve my personal best and that's what I did. I see this world record first of all as a personal best."

Sporting high: Becoming Olympic champion in Athens 2004 by beating rival Feofanova in front of a packed stadium focused entirely on the pole vault. Completed her victory by increasing her own world record with a jump of 4.91m to earn the gold medal.

Sporting low: In November 2005 Isinbayeva split with her coach of eight years, Yevgeny Trofimov. The split was by no means a mutual decision. "I'd lie to you if I said I wasn't bitter. I don't know why she did it," Trofimov was later quoted as saying.

In action: The women's pole vault event will take place inside Beijing's "Bird's Nest" Stadium. Isinbayeva should ease through the qualifying round on 16 August. Final: 18 August, 1220-1450 BST.

AWAY FROM POLE VAULT

Life before sport: Between the ages of 5 and 15 Isinbayeva trained as a gymnast in her hometown of Volgograd. She left gymnastics because as she grew she was considered too tall to be competitive.

Hero worship: Ukrainian legend and men's world record holder Sergei Bubka has been her role model since she began her pole vault career. She has said that she would love to better his tally of 35 world records.

Most likely to: Be compared to fellow Russian sportswoman Maria Sharapova because of her rags-to-riches career and high work ethic. "We are quite similar. Being famous sportswomen is not easy and her parents also sacrificed everything for her," explains Isinbayeva.

Least likely to: Be a good team-mate. Isinbayeva has acknowledged that she does not get on with jumper Svetlana Feofanova. The two Russian women certainly do not have a friendly rivalry.

Did you know? Isinbayeva loves dolphins and owns several of them and a collection of dolphin models. She says, "I love everything to do with dolphins. I like them so much."





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see also
Isinbayeva breaks pole vault mark
30 Jul 08 |  Athletics
Isinbayeva sets pole vault record
11 Jul 08 |  Athletics
Golden Isinbayeva misses record
28 Aug 07 |  Athletics


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