Russian Yelena Isinbayeva stared down the runway at the indoor meeting in Donetsk on Saturday, pushed her pole up into the air, and ran down the track surface toward the pit with focus and determination to please a sell-out crowd, who was eager to see their neighbouring star make history yet again in their small indoor meeting which legend Sergei Bubka had arranged.
Isinbayeva planted her pole and vaulted herself up very high into an indoor arena in the Ukrainian city, lifting her frame 495 centimetres into the air, over the bar and landing back down on a mat.
She smiled, the crowd roared, and Isinbayeva was back at it again—in the business of setting world records and collecting bonus checks for clearing heights which have eluded other athletes in her discipline.
The Volgograd native, who now lives in Monaco, had also kept her opponents at bay for the 23rd consecutive time—the 15th indoors, with only Qatar's world record-holding steeplechaser, Saif Saaeed Shaheen, owning a longer win-streak (25 competitions).
Isinbayeva's fortunes changed in the Polish town of Bydgoszcz on Wednesday night, however, with her long-time formidable foe and country mate Svetlana Feofanova, the last person to defeat her indoors, earning the right to stand atop the medal podium in the Pedro's Cup meeting after clearing a height of 4,71m on her first attempt -- 24cm below Isinbayeva's new personal best.
Isinbayeva, who won last year's competition at 4,84m, finished tied with Poland's own Monika Pyrek for second, with both athletes clearing 4,61m, respectively. Russia's Yuliya Golubchikova also cleared 4,61m, but finished fourth on misses.
Feofanova, 27, the former indoor (4,85m) and outdoor (4,88m) world record-holder, had last defeated Isinbayeva at the Tsiklitiria Iráklio meeting outdoors (4,88m to 4,65m) on 2004-July-4, and had been winless against her rival in 26-consecutive meetings following that victory.
Isinbayeva's last indoor loss, dating back to 16 competitions, was on 2004-February-2 at Athina 2004, where Feofanova cleared 4,85m to Isinbayeva's 4,50m.
Isinbayeva, who had endured a long and drawn-out vault competition in Donetsk followed by a guest appearance at the Laureus Awards in St. Petersburg on Monday, was unable to get her feet underneath her in Bydgoszcz.
"My body was not working well after much traveling and responsibilities in the last few days," she said to reporters afterward.
"Straight from Donyetsk I was flying to St. Petersburg for The Laureus Awards and then here again. I was aware that this was risky and that I would not be in the best condition, but still was thinking something around 4.80m would be enough to win today. I thought I would make it anyway, but there was nothing in my legs.
"But it was difficult to say no to any of my commitments. In this respect I am not disappointed."
Feofanova, the 2004 Olympic silver medallist and former world indoor champion who has never finished lower than third in her four IAAF World Indoor Championship competitions, beat a who's who cast of Polish athletes as well in recording her 33rd competition over 4,70m.
Isinbayeva has cleared 4,70m 20 more times than Feofanova, her athletics brides-maid, who is not on great speaking terms with her.
Pyrek, who lost her national indoor record to Anna Rogowska -- who finished fifth -- in 2006, and Isinbayeva had never before finished tied in a competition -- though they had both no-heighted once during their competitive careers dating back to 1999.
Isinbayeva will now take some needed time to recuperate from a heavy travel and competition period once she lands in Paris this week for an upcoming competition in Aubiere, where she will attempt to start a new win-streak in five days.
Croatian high jumper Blanka Vlasic has now taken over Isinbayeva's spot as the female athlete with the longest win-streak, having notched her 20th-consecutive in Split last week.
Results: 1. Svetlana Feofanova, Russia, 4,71m 2. Yelena Isinbayeva, Russia, 4,61m 2. Monika Pyrek, Poland, 4,61m 4. Yuliya Golubchikova, Russia, 4,61m 5. Anna Rogowska, Poland, 4,51m 6. Nataliya Kushch, Ukraine, 4,41m 7. Joanna Piwowarska, Poland, 4,31m -- Fabiana Murer, Brazil, NM -- Paulina Debska, Poland, NM