Story written by EPelle
The stories poured in and stuck faster than the time it took her to react to her historic achievement.
Headlines spread throughout the world at such a frenzied pace, one had a difficult time finishing one article before the next bold summary flashed beneath the screen:
Bergqvist Jumps 2.08WR.
If you have ever been mesmerised by one single athletic performance that nothing else short of the second coming could awaken you from the awe which struck at your physical and mental faculties, then you know what it's like to be stuck in your tracks worried that if you blinked, the replays would change the original outcome.
Kajsa Bergqvist demonstrated a tremendous resolve in returning to the world's high jump elite when she returned from a career-threatening achilles tear she suffered in Båstad, Sverige in May 2004.
She won every competition in which she entered in 2005 - including the IAAF World Championships in Helsinki. Riding an emotional roller coaster on an overcast day, she was nearly flawless throughout the competition, clearing 2.02m on her first attempt for the win. A first-attempt miss at 2.00m was her only set-back in the competition.
Having been crowned champion among her peers, Bergqvist rode out the wave to an attempted 2.10m WR. The world record would have been the brightest crown adorning Bergqvist's career, but she failed on each of her three chances to manage this height. Breaking Stefka Kostadinova's 18-year-old world record would have placed Bergqvist on a pedastal among the all-time track & field athletes of all-time.
Bergqvist was left wanting, however, too emotionally charged to gather herself to give the record her undivided attention. She took some time to recover, went back to her rigorous training and strength routine, and looked forward with great optimism to the opening of the 2006 season.
Bergqvist mentioned last winter she had three main goals in mind for 2006: competing for the IAAF Golden League jackpot, winning the European Championships on her home soil here in Göteborg and etching her name next to the world record. (See SVT video discussing Bergqvist's world-record ambition).
She failed to translate her 2005 outdoor dominance into mastery over her competitors outdoors in 2006, but her defiance of the odds indoors on day in February set her apart from any and all of her peers - age, rank, nationality and generation notwithstanding.
I don't specifically remember what I was doing on Saturday, 4-February-2006. The skies outside were miserable, and the only thing I do recall was that television reports were busy discussing how Iran had curbed inspections of its neclear power plants.
The fourth of February had been historic on several other occasions - notably the the Battle of Stalingrad ending 63 years before Bergqvist laced up to jump in Arnstadt, Germany, and the French abolishing slavery throughout its territories 149 years earlier.
It was fitting that Bergqvist was able to end the reign of one long-time record-holder, Heike Henkel, in front of Henkel's home crowd - with Henkel in attendance.
Bergqvist woke up that morning with a feeling that something special could happen. She went through her normal routines, checked into competition, and tried containing her composure. She had the added pressure of competing against fast-improving Blanka Vlasic, who would wind up second with a 2.01m clearance, and four more athletes with bests at 2,00m or higher.
"I was really motivated", Bergqvist said to reporters after her jump. "I am sure that was worth a centimetre or two extra." (See her record jump here).
Bergqvist's agent, Daniel Wessfeldt, put the performance into perspective, saying: “By beating a 14-year-old world record, with Kajsa's injury background, she will be recognised as one of the biggest track and field athletes ever.”
Bergqvist's magical jump - a personal best clearance by four centimetres - is my personal selection as Female Indoor Performance of the Year. She netted 1281 points on the IAAF Scoring Tables of Indoor Athletics, a points mark which led all female indoor world-record setters.
The Russians were especially strong indoors in 2006, with Yelena Isinbayeva setting the last of her 2006 pole vault records - indoors or outdoors - of 4,91m in Donetsk nine days after Bergqvist lifted off for a postal code in the elite neighbourhood; Lilija Shobukhova set a 3.000m world record (8.27,86) in Moscow at the Russian Championships two days after Isinbayeva's achievement; and Yelena Soboleva set a world record time of 3.58,28 in the 1.500m final the following day.
The Russian Women's 4x400m team began the indoor record-haul with a world-record - 3.23.37 - in Glasgow on 28-January.
Isinbayeva has had her share of world records, having amassed an incredible combined 18 individual ones indoors and out. She has had the figurative bar set higher than any athlete currently competing in athletics. Isinbayeva is expected to make world record attempts every time she competes in a meeting.
Shobukhova suprised the world, to say the least, with her 3.000m performance. In any given year where Bergqvist had not stolen the spotlight, Shobukhova would have been at the tip of the iceberg in consideration, having translated 4.03,78/8.34,85/14.47,07 personal bests into the single fastest indoor 3.000m time ever - a time which equals 8.14,17/14.22,17 outdoors - or a hint above 2,06/5.01 indoors. She eclipsed Bergqvist's old personal best on the IAAF indoor tables, and was far ahead of Isinbayeva on the same chart.
Soboleva was second in all indoor world-record holder scoring with a 1273 scoring - a tally which fell short of Bergqvist's 2.08, landing at an equivalent 2.075. Isinbayeva would have to vault just under 5.04m and Shobukhova to run 8.25,20. Soboleva competed twice indoors at 1.500m, running her world-record time, and a 4.05,21 the following month for 2nd at the World Indoor Championships. She also ran a 1.000m race in 2.32,40, a time which would still beat Bergqvist's previous indoor personal best by 2cm, and an 800m in 1.58,53 - or 2,03i on the Bergqvist scale.
I grappled with this for a short while, deciding how I could categorically declare Bergqvist's performance the better of the two considering Soboleva competed in three separate events in which she set near to Bergqvist's single effort.
One part of the deciding factor for me was the combination of IAAF points from the top-two finishers in each of their world-record events, compared with the margin of victory points over their respective runners-up.
The Bergqvist-Vlasic combination had a 2485 total (1281+1204), with Kajsa's margin of victory 77 points ahead of Vlasic.
The Soboleva-Yuliya Chizhenko combination netted a 2521 (1273+1248), with Yelena's margin 25 points ahead of Chizhenko.
Soboleva appeared to have more push at the end than Bergqvist was afforded by her runner-up, but the IAAF tables closed the book on that thought. Vlasic cleared 2.01m, passed 2.03m, and took an attempt at 2.05m - fouling out at this height. Bergqvist made this height on her 2nd-attempt. The equivalent would have been Chizhenko pushing at 4.01,28 pace before Soboleva made her last drive for home. Chizhenko ran 4.01,26 - or 0,02 seconds faster - than that comparison. Bergqvist had the same push and drive as did Soboleva.
So how did I come to my conclusion apart from Kajsa having more point value worth than Sobolova?
Bergqvist had the world-record purposefully in mind on her last attempt. Soboleva ran a world record after pushing home for the victory. Bergqvist had three attempts to knock Henkel off the charts, and did so in her first attempt. Had she failed once at the height, I would have rolled out the honorary red carpet to Soboleva.
However, in as much as Bergqvist specifically sought to break the world record outright after clearing 2.05m, and did so on her first attempt, I gave the nod to her. Her points chart total told the rest of the story.
I look forward to 2007 with much more enthusiasm than I did in 2006 - despite the European Championships being contested in my own backyard.
Bergqvist is a world-record holder, Soboleva has run as well outdoors as she did indoors, and Isinbayeva is always a threat to set a record in any competition in which she decides to participate. The thrill of being crowned world champion is on the line for Soboleva, with Bergqvist and Isinbayeva both defending their respective titles.
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