Dragila overcomes delays to win pole vault

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The Independent Online

The greatest women's pole vault competition in history crowned Stacy Dragila yet again and brought another star to the fore – Svetlana Feofanova.

And if weren't for the officiating, Dragila said, there could have been a world record in Monday's duel in the sun.

Dragila added a second pole vault world championship to her Olympic title, setting a championship record of 4.75 meters. Russia's Feofanova matched the mark for a European record. They both then went for a new world record of 4.82, one centimeter higher than the mark Dragila set in June. Both failed all three.

The American won because, three heights earlier, she only needed two attempts on 4.65, compared to Feofanova's three tries.

"I've never been in a battle like that before," Dragila said, while Feofanova refused to call the result a defeat.

"I did not really lose, but we more like tied," she said. "One jump was the difference, we both jumped just as high."

At the end, Dragila embraced her rival near the pit and said for all to hear: "We're both No. 1 today. This is awesome."

She was less kind toward the officials, who caused several delays with wrong bar settings and rule disputes.

"There could have been a world record," Dragila said, lamenting the uneven rhythm of the four–hour competition.

The problems included two instances in which the bar was set improperly, requiring a rejump at one height, and procedural questions. The situation was so confusing for the vaulters, their coaches and the officials that when the stadium announcer explained what was happening to the crowd, he added with a laugh: "There will be a quiz on this."

Dragila said that after she and Feofanova cleared 4.75, she had to argue with officials to let them immediately try for a new world record at 4.82, instead of the usual progression to 4.80.

"It was just kind of frustrating," she said. "We need to get well–informed officials out there and good high–tech equipment."

A statement by IAAF technical officer Phil Henson said the bar–setting problems were due to "human error" and malfunctioning equipment.

Monika Pyrek of Poland, just 20, took the bronze with 4.55, edging Tatiana Grigorieva of Australia, bronze medalist in 1999 and silver at Sydney, who cleared the same height but required one more attempt to do so. It was the first time ever four vaulters cleared the height.

It all came down to the three tries each by Dragila and the 21–year–old Feofanova for a world record, and afterward, the American left no doubt she knew it had been a battle.

"I was really nervous," she said.