Anzhelika Sidorova had already amassed three European titles and the Russian added the world title to her list of accolades on the third day of competition at the IAAF World Athletics Championships in Doha, clearing a lifetime best and world leading height of 4.95m.
The World Championships stage hasn’t always been kind to Sidorova who no-heighted in the final in Beijing four years ago and in qualifying in London two years ago but Sidorova, who was competing as an Authorised Neutral Athlete, delivered a near perfect display on her third appearance at the World Championships.
“My previous two World Championships wasn’t successful for me," reflected Sidorova. "After each height I felt more confident and step by step I felt I could do it again."
The pole vault final was the highest standard competition in history with a record six vaulters clearing 4.80m, including Sweden’s Angelica Bengtsson. Bengtsson was given a reprieve after her pole snapped on her third attempt which deposited her in the box but far from shaken - and jumping on a borrowed pole - the former U20 standout took full advantage, wriggling over the Swedish outdoor record height on her third attempt.
The next height of 4.85m decided the medals with Sidorova and reigning world indoor champion Sandi Morris from the United States both extending their clear records while reigning champion Ekaterini Stefanidi further demonstrated her championship temperament with a season’s best clearance on her second attempt.
Morris kept the pressure on Sidorova with a first-time clearance at 4.90m but her Russian counterpart serenely matched Morris on her first attempt. Stefanidi meanwhile passed her last two attempts after registering a foul at this height.
For the first time in World Championships history, three vaulters were attempting uncharted territory of 4.95m. Stefanidi was the first of the triumvirate to bow out after two tries at a prospective national record height, and a jump-off seemed to beckon as both Sidorova and Morris racked up their first fouls of the final.
Morris, who has cleared 5.00m in the past, was the first to reach three no-jumps which put the pressure very much on Sidorova but the Russian averted the prospect of a jump-off with an under pressure third time clearance at 4.95m to thoroughly break her spell of bad results at the World Championships.
A third time clearance at 4.95m? No problem for Anzhelika Sidorova!
The European indoor champion is now the world champion.
— European Athletics (@EuroAthletics) September 29, 2019
“I was focused on clearing every height on my first attempt because it was the only chance to win. After I understood I won the competition, I had no energy to continue my jumps,” explained Sidorova on why she didn't elect to vault again.
Morris missed out on the gold medal on countback with Stefanidi taking bronze with a season's best of 4.85m and the significance of the competition was by no means lost on the reigning champion.
"I had so much fun even if I did not win," said Stefanidi. "I am so excited to be part of this great competition where six girls went over 4.80m. It is interesting this is maybe the highest mark ever to get a bronze but it was also maybe the toughest."
Asher-Smith lowers British 100m record to 10.83 for silver
Dina Asher-Smith won three European titles in Berlin last summer and the Brit now has an individual global medal to add to her collection and with perhaps another medal of a brighter hue to follow later in the championships.
Asher-Smith won silver in the 100m in a British record of 10.83 behind the irrepressible Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce who won her fourth world 100m title since 2009 in 10.71, just 0.01 outside her lifetime best and the championship record which dates back to 1999.
Fraser-Pryce and Asher-Smith were drawn in adjacent lanes and the Jamaican enjoyed another brilliant bullet start in the final. Asher-Smith, who beat Fraser-Pryce in the Brussels Diamond League final earlier this month, couldn't quite engineer the same outcome but the 23-year-old ran faster than she has ever done before, eclipsing her British record which she set at the 2018 European Championships by 0.02.
"I have worked so hard for this championships. I’ve worked so hard to this point in my career. Hopefully I’ll go on to do bigger things but I was thinking on the line, this is your time to go. I’m really pleased to come away with a PB and national record. That is more than you could ever ask for in a world final.
"I’m a championship performer and competitor so of course I would have loved to have won that race, anyone in that race would have. But Shelly-Ann (Fraser-Pryce) delivered a fantastic performance. That is why she has won so many titles and is an absolute legend," said Asher-Smith.
Asher-Smith will return to action in the 200m heats tomorrow although Fraser-Pryce will not be contesting the event. There are also profound doubts about the fitness of the reigning two-time champion Dafne Schippers who was a late scratch from the 100m final due to an adductor injury.
Gemili speeds to a season's best in the 200m heats; Ben and Tuka reach 800m final
Adam Gemili missed out on a spot in the 100m final by 0.01 but the Brit opened his campaign in the 200m with his fastest time in more than three years.
The 2014 European champion was the fastest qualifier across the seven heats in 20.06 and he didn’t overexert himself in the process. “I didn’t feel like I was pushing too much off the bend, I was just high stepping,” commented Gemili.
His British teammates Miguel Francis and Zharnel Hughes finished second in their heats in 20.11 and 20.24 respectively while reigning world and European champion Ramil Guliyev - who was drawn on the inside lane - opened up his title defence by finishing second to Gemili in the first heat in 20.27.
“It was not an easy heat because of the second lane. This is never easy to run in but it was good in the end,” he said.
The 800m semifinals produced more than a few surprises with reigning world champion Pierre Ambroise Bosse from France and world indoor champion Adam Kszczot among the notable casualties. There could be a return to the podium for 2015 world bronze medallist Amel Tuka who won the third semifinal in 1:45.63 while 21-year-old Spaniard Adrian Ben, who is better known as a 1500m runner, took nearly one second off his lifetime best to qualify on time in 1:44.97.
Steven Mills for European Athletics