Pole vault icon Yelena Isinbayeva turns to motherhood
3-time world champ plans pregnancy
After winning her latest, and perhaps last, gold medal, Yelena Isinbayeva almost immediately looked at the next challenge ahead — motherhood.
Sports greatest female pole vaulter put on one of her best shows ever at 31, turning a half decade of losses, injuries and frustration into Russia's best night so far at the world championships.
Now, the athlete who almost singlehandedly turned women's pole vaulting from a sporting oddity into a star event will be looking out for herself.
Soon, she said shortly after Tuesday night's victory, she will be pregnant.
"A kind of walking penguin," she joked.
There had been rumours of retirement, but this time she provided clarity: She will come back for the 2016 Olympics after giving birth.
"If I will be able to come back I will be in Rio definitely, but if something will go wrong I will officially announce that I will retire," Isinbayeva said. "For the moment, just a small woman's break."
Coming back from motherhood has been done before, notably by Russia's second-most popular track star, Anna Chicherova. The high jumper returned from giving birth to her daughter Nika in 2010 to take both the world and Olympic titles. At 31, she is the favourite to retain her title in Moscow when qualifying opens Thursday.
With her biological clock ticking, Isinbayeva is now taking more than one step at a time, though.
"I'm running ahead of everyone again," she said. "My fiancée is shocked. He asks me in the morning not to tell anybody. Let's first get pregnant."
But sometimes her mouth has been faster than her reasoning.
"Yes, I'm going to be pregnant but I do not know when. Maybe the wedding will be soon," she said, before remembering that her partner has yet to propose to her.
Then again, she has a way of making her wishes come true.
"I will have some victories in my ordinary life — to give birth to a child is also a victory. Family life is also a hard job which I will have to learn," Isinbayeva said. "I will have to learn be a woman and wife."
In truth, though, Isinbayeva looked more like an overexcited teenager than a mature woman on Tuesday after bronze medallist Yarisley Silva missed her last attempt and the entire Luzhniki Stadium erupted in one huge roar.
Suddenly, she was jumping for joy, somersaulting and backflipping on the track with a Russian flag in her hand, leaping into the arms of the mascot and hugging like never before in a fit of showboating that could put even Usain Bolt to shame.
With one victory, the weight of years of frustration fell off her shoulders.
After she lost her Olympic and world titles, she didn't really seem close to recapturing that genius of youth again.
"I can say that this is the dearest gold for me because from Beijing and up to the world championships in Moscow I had so many problems, I had so many losses, injuries. I completely did not believe in my abilities," Isinbayeva said. "I was in despair and really was thinking deep in my head that it was time to quit."
It was not only that, after years of adulation when seven major gold medals indoors and outdoors and two dozen world records piled up right up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the mood sometimes turned against her.
"People were saying that Isinbayeva's era was over, that she had run out of gas. I've heard so much about it all — and it was so insulting," Isinbayeva said. "But on the other hand, it urged me on."