August 11, 2006

Isinbayeva aims to complete pole vault title haul

By Oliver Grassman

GOTHENBURG, Sweden (Reuters) - Pole vault supremo Yelena
Isinbayeva will be the overwhelming favorite in Saturday's
final at the European championships as she bids for the only
title missing from her collection.

The world record holder from Russia is already the Olympic,
world outdoor and indoor and European indoor champion but the
European outdoor title has eluded her so far.

At the previous championships in Munich four years ago she
won the silver behind compatriot Svetlana Feofanova.

Last month Isinbayeva, whose idol the great Ukrainian
Sergey Bubka only won the European title once in 1986, showed
she is not entirely invincible as Poland's Monika Pyrek beat
her in Stockholm's grand prix meeting.

But Isinbayeva quickly bounced back by winning her next
grand prix in London, and anything less than a gold medal would
be a major upset for the Russian.

In the qualifiers this week she claimed the qualifying
height of 4.40 metros on her second attempt.


Swedish triple jumper Christian Olsson, another Olympic
champion, will hope to give his home crowd their third gold
after the triumphs of Carolina Kluft in the heptathlon and
Susanna Kallur in the women's 100 metros hurdles.

Olsson, who only came back from a severe foot injury in
June, needed just one jump in Thursday's qualifying round to
reach the final.

The defending champion, competing in his home town, leaped
an impressive 17.51 metros, well past the automatic qualifying
distance of 16.95. His jump was the longest in the qualifiers.

The 26-year-old's foot problem has required four operations
since he won the Olympic title in Athens two years ago and
forced him to miss the world championships in Helsinki.

A women's 3000 metros steeplechase final will be staged for
the first time in the history of the European championships.

The event made its first major championship appearance at
the world championships in Helsinki last year.

Six other finals will be held on Saturday -- the women's
marathon, shot put and 5,000 metros and the men's hammer,
postponed because of Friday's rain delay, plus the discus and
the 110 metros hurdles.