Many observers doubted a woman could ever pole vault over five-meters. But the barrier was officially broken Friday at the World Athletics Championships.
The women's pole vault final was delayed for two days because of bad weather. But the wait was worthwhile for Russian Yelena Isinbayeva. The gold medal favorite cruised to her first world title and on her final attempt, broke her own world record by easily clearing the bar set at 5.01 meters. She says the weather was the biggest factor in her achievement. "Today when I woke up, the sun was shining in my room. And I thought 'yes, today is everything.' The weather was perfect. And I am so happy that today the weather was so good for us," she said.
Isinbayeva also was awarded a $100,000 bonus for setting a new world record.
Russia picked up two other gold medals Friday. Sergey Kirdyapkin strolled to a personal best time in the men's 50-kilometer walk. He clocked three hours, 38.08 seconds under bright sunshine in the Helsinki city streets.
After three straight silver medals at the world championships, Olympic winner Olga Kuzenkova finally spun and threw for gold in the women's hammer with a toss of 75.10. "I am really thrilled with happiness," she said.
In the evening session, Ladji Doucouré of France clocked 13-point-zero-seven seconds in the 110-meter hurdles while Xinag Liu of China followed (13.08) to outclass four Americans. Allen Johnson was the fastest of the quartet to earn bronze (13.10). Doucouré says he almost did not win.
"I really came well out of the starting blocks. The first four or five hurdles came out pretty well. At the end I made a few mistakes that almost cost me the race," he said.
American Allyson Felix became the youngest world champion in the women's 200-meter event. The 19-year-old Felix sped past pre-race favorites Christine Aaron of France and Jamaican Veronica Campbell to win in 20.16 seconds. Felix says her run progressively improved. "I did not get out as well as I would have liked to coming off the turn. And then I just wanted to keep going and just stay relaxed, stay calm. I knew I was really strong and I just wanted to rely on that," she said.
American teammate Rachelle Boone-Smith also sprinted hard, moving from fifth place to dip in front of Arron (22.31 both women) and claim silver.
Jeremy Wariner added another gold medal for the United States by easily winning the men's 400-meter race in 43.93 seconds. "I was fortunate enough to get lane three and have them all out in front of me. I could keep an eye on every single one of them while I was running. So I could not ask for a better race than that tonight," he said.
American teammate Andrew Rock followed for a silver medal (44.35).
The strong finish to the day boosted the U.S. medal count to 11 gold, seven silver and two bronze. Russia vaulted into second place with four gold, four silver and five bronze. Ethiopia slips to third in the standings with two gold, two silver and one bronze.