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TRACK AND FIELD

Chelsea Johnson ties for silver in pole vault

The UCLA graduate clears 15-3 at world championships. Olympic champion and former world champion Yelena Isinbayeva loses in final.

August 18, 2009|Philip Hersh

BERLIN — Chelsea Johnson empathized with Yelena Isinbayeva as the czarina of the pole vault lined up for her final attempt Monday night at the World Track and Field Championships.

It was a feeling born of understanding the pressures inherent to their event, not of sympathy for Isinbayeva, whose diva demeanor as much as her dominance has set the Russian apart from her rivals.

"Third attempts," Johnson said, "are no fun."

Johnson, a UCLA graduate participating in her first world meet, was content with her position, having clinched at least a bronze medal. And she had no doubt Isinbayeva would clear 15 feet 9 inches after missing her other two attempts, the first at 15-7.

"I was like, 'Third place, that's cool,' " Johnson said.

There was no reason to expect anything else from Isinbayeva, who won the last two Olympics and last two world titles, set 26 world records, had the top 10 vaults in history and had jumped higher than 15-9 on 30 occasions. Isinbayeva had been unbeaten for six years until losing last month at London.

But now, after knocking down the bar with her chest on the final attempt, she has lost two straight.

"I don't have any particular explanation," Isinbayeva said. "Maybe it was destiny."

Poland's Anna Rogowska won the final at 15-7 and Johnson came away with a silver medal along with a wish for a fellow competitor.

"She could care less about me, but I feel bad for her," Johnson said of Isinbayeva. "Maybe she will learn from it, and it will make her a better competitor and more compassionate. I don't think she has really had to feel those emotions."

It clearly will take more than one comeuppance to do it. Isinbayeva, 27, was as graceless in defeat as she has been imperious in victory.

Asked if the end of her reign would encourage other vaulters, Isinbayeva replied, "I think somebody is just lucky that I lost."

Isinbayeva made no attempt to congratulate the medalists, saying she did not want to wait for them to finish a victory lap, though she walked right past Rogowska and Johnson while leaving the pole vault area.

"It is a little bit disappointing," Johnson said of the snub. "I learned from [two-time world champion] Stacy Dragila, and whenever she had a bad day, she always congratulated everybody else."

Johnson, 25, cleared 15-3 to share the silver with Monica Pyrek of Poland in a competition that was missing the silver and bronze winners from the 2008 Olympics, Jenn Stuczynski of the U.S. and Svetlana Feofanova of Russia, who withdrew because of injuries.

Team USA claimed its fourth medal of the meet when Carmelita Jeter of Long Beach finished third in the 100 meters behind Jamaicans Shelly-Ann Fraser and Kerron Stewart.

After the men's and women's 100s, Jamaican sprinters have two golds, a silver and a bronze to a silver and bronze for the U.S. Jamaica won all four 100 and 200 golds and both sprint relays at the 2008 Olympics.

And U.S. sprint medal chances here dropped when Tyson Gay, who ran brilliantly while finishing second to Jamaica's Usain Bolt in Sunday's 100 final, made the expected announcement Monday that his sore groin would keep him out of the 200.

Gay said he hopes to run the 400-meter relay.

Olympic champion Fraser won in 10.73 seconds, the world's fastest time in a decade. Stewart clocked a personal best 10.75, Jeter 10.90.

"Those two women ran a great race and I was able to break up the sweep, I guess you could say," Jeter said, referring to having outrun fourth-place Veronica Campbell-Brown of Jamaica.

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phersh@tribune.com

twitter.com/olyphil

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