Katerina Stefanidi at Zurich's main train station (© Gladys Chai van der Laage)
World and Olympic champion Katerina Stefanidi extended her unbeaten streak to 12 in a captivating women's pole vault competition at Zurich's main train station on Wednesday (23).
Jumping before a crowd of more than 2000 on the eve of the first of two IAAF Diamond League finals, Stefanidi beat world and Olympic silver medallist Sandi Morris on countback at 4.87m, her second best leap of the year indoors or out.
"It was a lot of fun, the crowd was great so it helped us to jump higher," said Stefanidi, who continued to illustrate the consistency that's propelled her to the top of the event over the past year.
The women's pole vault isn't a Diamond discipline at Zurich's Weltklasse meeting, but that didn't keep the athletes from relishing the spectacular atmosphere in the large hall of the city's central station, the busiest transport hub in Switzerland. The spectators, whose numbers grew as the competition progressed, soaked in the entertainment as well.
Stefanidi topped 4.62m, 4.72m and 4.82m on her first attempts to take firm control of the competition in the early going. Morris meanwhile faltered at 4.72m, needing three tries before sailing clear. Finding her rhythm, she then topped 4.77m and 4.82m on her first try. Stefanidi missed at the latter, handing Morris the lead. But it would be short-lived.
Stefanidi passed to 4.87m which she cleared confidently on her first attempt to retake control. Morris sailed clear on her first jump as well to add three centimetres to her 2017 best.
While both produced hefty clearances at 4.87m, signs of fatigue began to creep in. Neither was particularly close in three attempts at the final height of 4.92m, but both were pleased.
"We work very hard on my technique, my run-up and my jump, so it helps with my confidence," said Stefanidi, whose only loss in 15 competitions this year came back in February. "That's helped this year."
Morris was especially delighted.
"I'm just so happy tonight," Morris said. "It's a season's best for me. I feel like I'm myself again."
Eight women topped 4.62m but just three managed 4.72m, the rapidly-improving Katie Nageotte among them.
"It's pretty incredible," the 26-year-old American said. It was an indoor best and just one centimetre shy of her absolute lifetime best set in Rottach-Egern six weeks ago.
"I feel like I've finally executed what I've been working on. It's been a transition year for me. I'm really glad that it's coming together."
Holly Bradshaw of Great Britain, last year's winner here, was in a four-way tie for third with Swiss vaulter Nicole Buchler, Lisa Ryzih of Germany and former world champion Yarisley Silva of Cuba. All topped 4.62m as did Canadian Alysha Newman who finished eighth.
Bob Ramsak for the IAAF