x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

This time Fabiana Murer will not be poles apart

The world pole vault champion felt she had her Olympics 'stolen' from her in Beijing, she will not be taking any chances this time.

Brazil’s Fabiana Murer won gold in the pole vault event at the World Championships in Daegu last summer.
Brazil’s Fabiana Murer won gold in the pole vault event at the World Championships in Daegu last summer.

The first thing Fabiana Murer will do when she arrives in London for the Olympics is tell everyone to stay away from her poles.

The world pole vault champion lost a chance to compete for a medal in Beijing because one of her poles was misplaced in the final, so the Brazilian is promising to keep a close eye on her equipment to make sure nothing will get in the way this time.

The mishap in 2008 became one of the greatest disappointments of her career, and although she says she has been able to put it in the past, Murer said the incident has made her more mindful about all the off-the-track details that can impact on her performance when it matters.

"Now I'm much more careful with my equipment," the 31-year-old Murer said. "When I arrive for a competition, I'll go straight to the organisers and tell them that I don't want anybody handling my poles unless there is someone from my team monitoring.

"After what happened in Beijing, I'll always go check to see if all the poles are there, if the angle of the landing mattress is correct. I'll check everything, because if there is anything wrong I can fix it before the competition starts."

Murer said she will ask London Games organisers to inform the Brazilian team every time they have to handle her poles, giving her total control over what happens to the equipment. She said she will reinforce the request in the technical meeting with all competitors before the event, alerting officials of her concerns. A small crack or a slight dent on a pole could eventually make a difference, Murer said.

Murer was already taking these types of precautions last year when she won her first world title in Daegu, South Korea.

But unfortunately that wasn't the case in Beijing. Murer made it to the pole vault final in the 2008 Games, but did not get far because she said organisers misplaced one of her poles at the Bird's Nest.

She said she gave all of her poles to organisers so they could place them at the competition's venue, but one of them got mixed up with the equipment of another athlete and was returned to the athlete's village. Pole vaulters use several types of poles in the same event, depending on the height they are attempting to clear.

Murer could not find the pole needed to clear 4.55 metres and had to go directly to the one used for the 4.65 mark, which she said disrupted her entire routine for the final. She kept pacing back and forth looking for the pole, waving her arms and even trying to stop the competition until officials could help her find it.

Murer finished 10th among the 12 finalists after a jump of 4.45 metres. Her personal best then was 4.80, which would have been good enough for silver.

At the time, in tears, she said: "It feels like they stole these Olympics from me. I've never seen anything like this."

She was so disappointed that she said she would never return to China to compete again.

Organisers sent her a letter the next day apologising for the incident, but said that ultimately it was Murer's responsibility to check her equipment before the final started.

"I didn't do anything wrong, but now I know how to handle the situation," Murer said. "I'm more experienced. I'll take that extra step to make sure nothing happens."

Although she learnt from the incident, Murer said she is not letting the episode linger in her mind.

"I'm not neurotic about it," she said. "It was hard to understand why that happened, and that first month was tough, but it's been four years now and I've recovered fully. A lot of things have happened. I've won events and I've lost events since then."

The Brazilian will enter the competition as a contender after beating Yelena Isinbayeva and other Olympic favourites in the world championships last year in Daegu.

"I have a lot of confidence," Murer said. "I feel like I'm in my best shape physically and mentally. I did well in 2010 and 2011, but now I think I can do even better."

Murer has been training exclusively for the Olympics over the past six months. She competed in two meetings in Brazil in May and will participate in three Diamond League events before going to Italy for her final stage of preparations for London.

She hopes to be in position to clear the five-metre mark at the Olympics, which she says should be enough to put her in contention for a medal. Murer said the two-time defending Olympic champion Isinbayeva will remain the main favourite for the gold, but acknowledges that the Russian's recent struggles have given the other competitors an extra boost of confidence.

"Isinbayeva is still a top athlete. She will be fighting for the victory," Murer said. "But it's different now that everybody knows that she is not unbeatable. Before, we all entered the competitions hoping to finish second or third, now everyone has a little more confidence to try to go for the gold. Isinbayeva will have to be on top of her game to win the gold again."

Murer knows she can be the one to steal the victory from the Russian, just like she did in Daegu.

"This time it will be different," she said. "I know that I'll be able to focus only on the competition. I think this could be my year."

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