Track and Field

Alysha Newman falters in Doha day after Air Canada damaged her poles

Canadian pole vaulter Alysha Newman cleared 4.54 metres Friday before missing all three attempts at 4.64 to finish seventh at the season-opening Diamond League meet in Doha, Qatar, one day after she lashed out at Air Canada for damaging her equipment.

Canadian record-holder 7th at Diamond League opener

Canadian pole vaulter Alysha Newman finished seventh at Friday's season-opening Diamond League meet in Doha, Qatar. (Michael Steele/Getty Images)

Was it the poles, searing heat or something else?

Whatever the case, Canadian pole vaulter Alysha Newman didn't appear herself during Friday's season-opening Diamond League meet in Doha, Qatar — where the temperature hovered around 34 C — but in fairness to the London, Ont. native, she wasn't competing with her own poles.

After clearing 4.54 metres at Qatar Sports Club, the 23-year-old missed all three attempts at 4.64 to finish seventh in a field of nine, one day after Newman lashed out at Air Canada from her Twitter account for damaging her equipment.

Alysha Newman attempts to get over broken heart and broken poles

5 years ago
Duration 0:43
Canadian champion pole vaulter Alysha Newman finished in 7th place in the pole vault at the Diamond League meet in Doha, while using borrowed poles. Her own poles arrived broken following her flight to Doha.

"All I can say is I did my best !," Newman posted to her Twitter account. "I'm upset because I felt so good but I'm proud to have set everything aside&was able to pull off 3 bars! I'm going to jump high this season, I feel it in me!There are so many people to thank after this one."

On Thursday, Newman wrote that her heart was broken along with her poles, 'thanks to Air Canada.'

Canada's largest airline asked her on Twitter to send a booking reference so it could investigate further.

Newman tweeted:

In an email to CBC News on Thursday, Air Canada spokesperson Peter Fitzpatrick said the airline had reached out to Newman and was arranging to deliver her new equipment.

While Newman competed with borrowed poles delivered to the stadium Friday morning from a local club in Qatar that are similar to the Carbon Mystic vaulting pole she has had for a couple of years, her coach Doug Wood was back home keeping an eye on his phone while trying to coach at a high school meet in Mississauga, Ont.

"Alysha did great," he told CBC Sports. "She'll probably be frustrated that she didn't jump higher, but I'm really ecstatic. It was a very positive experience after a very negative start. She got three bars [4.24, 4.44, 4.54] on borrowed or loaned poles.

"Alysha is exceptionally talented at making adjustments mid-jump and I respect her competitive spirit. She's a different beast and goes to a place you can only dream of. I've been around her for years and I'm still amazed."

Breakthrough 2017 season

Wood said he spoke with Newman on Friday morning about the possibility of withdrawing from the Doha meet. He noted Newman is in a good place mentally, physically and technically coming off her Commonwealth Games victory last month and didn't want her to risk injury using different poles.

Newman, who matched her personal best of 4.75 to shatter the Games record of 4.62, forged ahead, first clearing 4.24 in Doha before needing all three tries to clear 4.44 and 4.54.

In her breakthrough 2017 season, Newman vaulted 4.60 or more 10 times and cleared 4.70 at the world indoor track and field championships in March.

The Air Canada mishap hurts Newman on several levels.

'She can't train, compete unless she borrows poles'

"This goes way beyond just getting some money back for these poles. They're custom made so they can't be replaced quickly. Also Alysha was in a groove. She just won the Commonwealth Games tying her Canadian record so early in the season, so she's on pace to vault even higher later in the season," said CBC Sports analyst Anson Henry.

"She's obviously accustomed to the poles as well, and they need to get work in. Plus, we're talking about multiple poles for various situations and various bar heights. Now she can't train, she can't compete unless she borrows the poles, which won't go over well. So, she can't make any prize money.

"This could potentially take her out of contention in winning the Diamond League trophy," added Henry, "which isn't that far out of her realm of possibilities with the way she's been vaulting. That's $50,000 US, the Diamond trophy, and probably a lot of contract bonuses she could have gotten from her shoe contract with Nike with her Diamond League finish and world ranking at the end of the season."

'I would like to think it was an accident'

Wood said Air Canada has been helpful with Newman in the past and will put his faith in the airline doing "what is right" in this case.

"I would like to think [Air Canada] wasn't negligent, that it was an accident," he added.

Reigning Olympic silver medallist Sandi Morris of the United States won Friday's event after clearing 4.84 on her final attempt, followed by Great Britain's Holly Bradshaw (4.64) and American Katie Nageotte in a season-best 4.64.

Wood said Newman would return to competition on May 26 at the Prefontaine Classic, a Diamond League meet in Eugene, Ore.

Semenya sets 2 marks in 1,500

Caster Semenya's quest for a title double in the Diamond League started well when she won the 1,500 metres in a South African record time on Friday.

The two-time Olympic and three-time world champion in the 800 won the 1,500 comfortably by more than a second in 3:59.92, a world-leading and personal-best time.

"It's always a dream to set the national record and I want to continue to push beyond my personal best," she said. "We definitely achieved that here.

"I wanted to go faster, but had to slow down a little. I will go back and watch the race and see where we can improve."

Accused of having unfair advantage

Semenya was racing for the first time since the International Association of Athletics Federations announced the introduction of new regulations, which take effect on Nov. 1, that limit the levels of natural testosterone allowed in the bodies of female athletes competing at distances from 400 to 1,500 metres.

She has been accused by some of having an unfair advantage due to her higher levels of testosterone.

Kenya's Nelly Jepkosgei was second and set a PB in 4:00.99 while Ethiopia's Habitam Alemu third (a season-best 4:01.41).

Semenya came to Doha after her 800-1,500 double at the Commonwealth Games in Australia last month, and begins the defence of her 800 Diamond League title at the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Ore., on May 26.

Diamond League on CBC Sports

CBC Sports is providing live streaming coverage of all 14 Diamond League meets this season at and via the CBC Sports app for iOS and Android devices. TV coverage will be featured as part of the network's Road To The Olympic Games weekend broadcasts throughout the season.

The following is a list of upcoming Diamond League meets:

  • Shanghai (May 12, 7 a.m. ET)
  • Eugene – Prefontaine Classic (May 26, 4 p.m. ET)
  • Rome (May 31, 2 p.m. ET)
  • Oslo (June 7, 2 p.m. ET) 
  • Stockholm (June 10, 10 a.m. ET)
  • Paris (June 30, 2 p.m. ET)
  • Lausanne (July 5, 2 p.m. ET)
  • Rabat (July 13, 1 p.m. ET)
  • Monaco (July 20, 2 p.m. ET)
  • London (July 21-22, 10 a.m. ET, 9 a.m.)
  • Birmingham (Aug. 18, 3 p.m. ET)
  • Zurich (Aug. 30, 2 p.m. ET)
  • Brussels (Aug. 31, 2 p.m. ET) 


Doug Harrison has covered the professional and amateur scene as a senior writer for CBC Sports since 2003. Previously, the Burlington, Ont., native covered the NHL and other leagues for Follow the award-winning journalist @harrisoncbc

With files from The Associated Press


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