Report19 Mar 2022

Morris retains title after US pole vault battle in Belgrade


Sandi Morris in the pole vault at the World Athletics Indoor Championships Belgrade 22 (© Getty Images)

Sandi Morris continued her reign as the world indoor pole vault champion, clearing 4.80m to lead a US top two ahead of her training partner Katie Nageotte at the World Athletics Indoor Championships Belgrade 22 on Saturday (19).

Managing the same height that she achieved to take the US indoor title ahead of Nageotte in Spokane last month, Morris added a second global gold to a major medal collection that also includes 2016 Olympic silver, two world outdoor medals of that same colour from 2017 and 2019, and a world indoor silver from 2016.

Injury denied Morris the opportunity to challenge Nageotte for the Olympic title in Tokyo last summer, but Belgrade offered another chance for the friends to go head-to-head.

With a last-gasp clearance, Morris conquered in a clash that saw Nageotte secure silver on countback thanks to her first-time 4.75m.

Tina Sutej, who cleared 4.80m in Rouen earlier this month to improve the Slovenian record, also achieved a best of 4.75m in Belgrade to claim the first international medal of her career.

“After a year like last year, when I was injured for the Olympics, you feel you have to prove yourself again,” said Morris, who moved to join Nageotte in being coached by Brad Walker last year. “We're so hard on ourselves and I wanted to go out and prove it to myself that I could still do it at this level.

“Today was about me fighting off my own internal demons. Doing it back-to-back was amazing, and doing it with my teammate and now training partner Katie was really special.

“We're going to go back and forth for the next few years, it's going to be so much fun.”

Nageotte had led the competition through to her failure at the eventual winning height, managing 4.45m, 4.60m, 4.70m and 4.75m on her first attempts. Morris and Sutej also soared clear at 4.75m at the first time of asking, but European indoor silver medallist Sutej needed two tries at 4.60m and all three at 4.70m, while Morris was also at a disadvantage, having needed two attempts at 4.60m.

That changed as the bar moved to 4.80m. As Sutej ran out of attempts, Morris soared clear on her final go and was celebrating in the air before she fell back down to the mat. When Nageotte was unable to respond, the defending champion was crowned again.

“I am really happy for Sandi, and for me, too,” said Nageotte, who before the competition had shared insight into her struggles with motivation following her Olympic title win. “Obviously, I always want to win, but I have had really rough indoor season – mentally and emotionally.”

Following her first competition this season off a full approach, she added: “I am so happy and excited that we both came out with a medal today.

"This was my first competition from my full approach so there’s always kinks you’re working out. I’m just ecstatic to walk away with a medal, I’m happy for Sandi and I’m really excited going into outdoors now.”

Sutej was eighth when Belgrade hosted the European Indoor Championships in 2017 but she went on to get silver at the 2021 edition in Torun and then finished fifth at the Olympics in Tokyo.

“I'm not the youngest athlete in our field anymore,” said the 33-year-old. “I already have three Olympics and numbers of European and world championships in the list of my performances, but I still haven't had so many medals in my collection. I had a lot of motivation for tonight and this achievement will motivate me to continue on the highest level even until 2024.”

Ukraine’s Yana Hladiychuk and Switzerland’s Angelica Moser finished fourth with 4.60m, while Olivia McTaggart was sixth with the same height.

Jess Whittington for World Athletics


🥇 Sandi Morris 🇺🇸 USA 4.80m
🥈 Katie Nageotte 🇺🇸 USA 4.75m
🥉 Tina Sutej 🇸🇮 SLO 4.75m
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