Yelena Isinbayeva is pulling a "Tiger Woods."
Not satisfied being merely the most dominating woman in the pole vault, she spent last season tearing apart her technique. This was Woods' strategy a few years ago when he retooled his golf swing in a push for new heights.
Isinbayeva struggled with a stiffer pole, with a higher grip, and with a "new swing technique" devised by coach Vitaly Petrov. It was a season devoid of world records and filled with frustration.
"Last year I didn't feel my jump," Isinbayeva said Friday on the eve of the nine-day athletics world championships. "I just jumped without any feeling. But this year I feel each part of my jump, I know what I need to do before each jump. It's given me more motivation because now I understand the pole vault more."
This is very bad news for everybody else.
The 25-year-old Russian is the defending Olympic and world champion, and she rules her discipline like nobody else. She's set 20 world records (13 outdoor, seven indoor), although her last outdoor record came two years ago in Helsinki - 5.01 meters - at the last worlds.
Keep an eye on next Tuesday's finals.
"I'm starting to feel I am flying over the bar, not jumping over it," Isinbayeva said. "I'm sure I will jump even higher step by step."
In addition to the new technique, her biggest problem is the lack of a real challenger. American Jenn Stuczynski among a handful of contenders for silver and bronze.
"Of course, if I had some stronger rivals that would motivate me so much."
Asked if she could be defeated, Isinbayeva bluntly replied: "No."
"And who wins silver, I don't know," she added. "That's not my problem. I always focus on myself and don't care about my rivals."
Isinbayeva said one of the most difficult things for her in competition was killing time for up to three hours while other vaulters attempt the lower heights.
"Sometimes I get tired waiting for the first attempt," she said. "I don't know what to do in that time - maybe warm up three times."
Isinbayeva is modest, almost shy - but not when she's talking about her domination of the women's pole vault competition. Her goal is to eclipse Sergei Bubka's record feats. Bubka set 35 world records and is a friend and sometime-mentor to Isinbayeva.
She figures if she sets 16 more records, that will drive the new world outdoor standard to about 5.20 meters.
"Setting 36 world records would make me happy," she said. `How long it will take, I don't know. But by the end of my career I would like to achieve a record which nobody will beat - ever."
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