TOKYO: American Katie Nageotte needed a third and final attempt to clear her opening height but overcame the nervous start to win the Olympic women’s pole vault gold medal today.
The 30-year-old arrived in Tokyo in red-hot form with two world-leading marks of 4.95m and 4.93m, but she struggled to get over 4.50m in the final.
Nageotte’s clearance of 4.90m at the second attempt was enough to secure victory, however, as Anzhelika Sidorova and Britain’s Holly Bradshaw finished on 4.85m.
World champion Sidorova, representing the Russian Olympic Committee, cleared her first four vaults at the first attempt to take the silver ahead of Bradshaw.
The pressure of competing in the Olympic final also showed on the other vaulters as the field was cut to just four after the second round with the bar at 4.70m.
All four made it past the 4.80m mark too.
Greek Katerina Stefanidi, the gold medallist from Rio, was the first to drop out of medal contention when she failed to clear 4.85m.
A teary-eyed Nageotte returned to the field after climbing into the stands to celebrate with members of her team, attempting to set a new personal best at 5.01m.
She gave up after her first failed attempt, however, wrapping herself in her country’s flag before taking a full lap of the track with the other medallists.
It was redemption for Bradshaw, who finished sixth in the 2012 London Games and fifth five years ago in Rio.
She also came fourth at the 2019 World Championships in Doha.