Feature04 Sep 2011

After several near misses, Chicherova finally takes gold


Anna Chicherova of Russia celebrates victory in the women's high jump final (© Getty Images)

Daegu, KoreaLess than one year after giving birth Anna Chicherova was “air born” as the new World Champion of the High Jump in Daegu, clearing 2.03 m.

Never before had the 29-year-old won a title at a major global event. Before she had become a mother her main awards were two silver medals at the World Championships – Osaka 2007 and Berlin 2009 – as well as an Olympic bronze from Beijing in 2008. It is well-known that women Marathon who gave birth often return stronger than before – but High Jumpers? Maybe Chicherova can start a new trend.

However, Chicherova’s day had not started according to plan.

“I did not feel well. I had something in my throat and I had the feeling of becoming ill,” she recalled. “My first thought was: ‘Why is everything okay first but then, when the crucial moment comes, something happens.’ I was angry about myself.”

“So that was the reason why I did not compete as well as I had planned. Originally I had hoped to improve my personal best from the Russian Championships. But I felt as if I had to carry a heavy load with me. However I am very happy that I came through and still won. I would have been very disappointed if I would not have been able to take the gold medal today. Normally I would not be happy with this height today, but I won.”

Despite her feeling not fully healthy Chicherova produced a very strong competition, clearing all her heights up to and including 2.03m at her first attempt. That was enough for the gold medal in Daegu since the defending champion Blanka Vlasic (Croatia) needed two jumps to cross 2.03m. And for both of them 2.05m was too high on Saturday night.

It was on 10 September last year, when Chicherova gave birth to her daughter Nika. Asked about how training went after birth the Russian, who originally comes from Armenia, explained: “I never did expect that I would be able to come back so strong. In fact when I went to the track for the first time after giving birth I thought there is no way that I could ever come back. But then days were coming where it suddenly was all improving and I then became very optimistic. Still I did not expect to be able to come back so fast. But I have to give a lot of credit to my mother who helped me with the baby. She is at home now with out daughter and looks after her.”

Having jumped 2.04m indoors and outdoors before 2010 Chicherova made the headlines at the Russian Championships this summer, when she cleared 2.07m. With this height she moved up to a joint third position in the all-time lists, behind Stefka Kostadinowa (Bulgaria/2.09m) and Vlasic (2.08m).

“It all went to plan for me before the Russian Championships. When I competed there it was a very emotional competition. I finally cleared 2.07 at my third attempt.” But then she explained that she didn’t feel ready to try a would-be World record of 2.10m on that occasion.

“But next time I get the chance I will try to go for it,” she assures. “In general I think everything is possible – including 2.10 metres.”

The problem for Anna Chicherova after the Russian Championships in Cheboksary was that she had to wait so long for the competition in Daegu. “I had no more competitions and this was a long time. It was too long, and that is probably why I lost a little bit of my form.”

Anna Chicherova had started high jumping already as a child, when her father coached her. He still helps her today, but her main coach is Yevgeniy Zagorulko. After winning the gold medal at the World Youth Championships in 1999 there was not much improvement in the following three years. So Chicherova then switched coaches and asked Zagorulko to take over from Alexander Fetisov. Had he not agreed, she once explained, she would have quit the sport.

Under Zagorulko she made rapid progress. Having had a personal best of 1.93m in 2002 she improved by 11 centimetres to 2.04m in the next winter. And there were some major medals as well: In 2003 she was third at the World Indoor Championships and in the next year she took the silver at these championships. In 2005 Chicherova was the European Indoor Champion. World Championships’ and Olympic medals were to follow, but Saturday evening in Daegu was her biggest day as a high jumper so far.

“I got some motivation when I had watched Maria Abakumova taking the Javelin Throw on the day before. It was great to see how she was fighting,” said Chicherova, who will welcome more competition to the women’s High Jump once Ariane Friedrich and Chaunté Howard Lowe will return to competition.

“They will come back and this is good, because it helps to improve if you have strong competitors.”

Jörg Wenig for the IAAF

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