Sandi Morris in the pole vault at the World Indoor Championships Birmingham 2018 (© Getty Images)
The USA’s respective reigning Olympic and defending world indoor champions, Katie Nageotte and Sandi Morris, go head-to-head at the World Athletics Indoor Championships Belgrade 22, and with Slovenia’s Tina Sutej having also cleared 4.80m this season, some great competition is in store.
Nageotte recorded an outdoor PB of 4.95m to win the US title last summer and then claimed Olympic gold after soaring over 4.90m, while Morris’ best is the 5.00m she achieved outdoors in 2016 and her 2018 world indoor title win came thanks to a 4.95m clearance.
Indoors, since they started competing against each other in 2014, their head-to-head record stands at 15-4 in Morris’ favour, but only one of those – the 2018 World Indoor Championships – was a global final. That event in Birmingham was Nageotte’s major championships debut and since then she has become one of the world’s most consistent vaulters. She cleared 4.80m or higher in eight competitions last year and has done so once so far in 2022, finishing third at the World Athletics Indoor Tour Gold meeting in Lievin with that 4.80m clearance. That was also the height that Morris achieved to take the US indoor title ahead of Nageotte in Spokane last month.
Having experienced such a high at the Olympics last summer, Nageotte has since spoken about maintaining motivation and how she is taking things “jump by jump”.
“It's normal for these ebbs and flows, ups and downs, of motivation in sport. It's a process,” said the 30-year-old. “I just want to go in and have fun. I want to get in a groove again and feel good from full approach and then, who knows?”
Sutej, meanwhile, is currently in the form of her life and her 4.80m clearance to win in Rouen earlier this month improved the Slovenian record and added 4cm to her outright PB. The 33-year-old was eighth when Belgrade hosted the European Indoor Championships in 2017 but she secured silver at the 2021 edition of the event in Torun and went on to finish fifth in Tokyo.
While that trio leads the way when it comes to 2022 performances among those entered, the quintet of Switzerland’s Angelica Moser, Cuba’s Yarisley Silva, China’s Xu Huiqin, France’s Margot Chevrier and New Zealand’s Olivia McTaggart are also closely matched.
Moser, who beat Sutej to the European indoor title in Torun, achieved her season’s best of 4.66m when finishing second in Rouen, where Sutej turned the tables to triumph.
Silva is a 4.91m vaulter at her best, that Cuban record having been recorded in 2015, and she will be looking to recapture the sort of form that saw her win the world indoor title in Sopot in 2014 (4.70m). Xu has an outdoor best of 4.70m from 2019 and her 4.65m this season is an indoor PB.
For 22-year-olds Chevrier and McTaggart, their 4.65m clearances this season are outright lifetime bests and they will be looking to build on that in Belgrade. The 2018 world U20 fifth-place finisher McTaggart’s mark was achieved outdoors and Belgrade will be her first indoor competition of the year.
Jess Whittington for World Athletics