No athlete had a better front row seat to watch Katie Nageotte’s woes this season than Sandi Morris.
And when Nageotte won the gold medal in the women’s pole vault on Sunday (17) at the Oregon22 World Athletics ChampionshipsMorris was there beside her to celebrate the victory.
The only catch was that Morris was relegated to silver medalist status. Still.
Nageotte, the Tokyo Olympic champion, became the third athlete to win the women’s world pole vault title the year after capturing Olympic gold.
Meanwhile, Morris won her third consecutive silver medal at the World Championships to go along with the silver she won at the Rio Olympics. That’s four silver medals in seven years. And Morris didn’t even get a chance to show what she could do in Tokyo last summer after breaking her pole and suffering an injury in the qualifying round.
“After Tokyo, that silver medal hurts more than any medal,” Morris said, “because I thought, ‘Maybe it was my turn’. But that was not all. I just don’t. I’m going to get up and fight even harder next year.
Nageotte and Morris cleared 4.85m to share the world lead, which Morris previously held alone at 4.82m. Nageotte won the gold medal on the countdown, easily reaching the height on her first attempt while Morris needed two tries.
“This year has been tough, to say the least,” said Nageotte, 31, who was hampered earlier this season by a tight Achilles tendon on her take-off leg. “I know Sandi can attest to that. There have been so many times I have debated retirement. It was difficult to come to the track every day and stay motivated.
The gold medal was the third for the United States in the women’s pole vault and the first since Stacy Dragila won back-to-back titles in 1999 and 2001. No country had placed two women on the podium since the Poland achieved the feat in 2009.
Australia’s Nina Kennedy had an early scare at 4.45m, eventually overtaking her third attempt, and went on to claim bronze with a season best 4.80m. She won the first medal for Australia since Tatiana Grigorieva also won bronze in the first women’s pole vault at the 1999 World Championships.
Nageotte also ended Morris’ 11-game winning streak – six outdoors and five indoors, including the World Indoor Championships, where Morris was the champion and Nageotte was the runner-up.
By then, 31-year-old Morris had moved to Atlanta to train with Brad Walker, the men’s pole vault world champion in 2007. Walker was already working with Nageotte and directing his star jumpers to train at different times on the track, but together in the weight room.
“Today is a bit bittersweet,” Morris said. “I wanted that gold medal, of course, but I’m so happy for Katie. I looked at her, being her sparring partner. I watched her fight so much.
Nageotte, who had only cleared 4.65m this season before the World Championships, understands Morris’ plight. “Sandi is disappointed with her money and that’s why she’s the best,” she said. “Because I would have been disappointed with the money too.”
Morris has two world indoor titles, so there is gold in his collection. However, she feels like it slipped through her fingers.
Morris, whose PB is 5.00m, had a better slate than Nageotte, who missed her early attempts at 4.70m and 4.80m. But after Morris, who had room at 4.80m, needed that second try at 4.85m, the pressure was on to make it 4.90m.
“I knew what I had to do,” said Morris, who sounded like she had it on her second attempt. “I had some really good shots, but at least I got the best of the season. It’s hard to be disappointed, but it’s hard to get another silver medal.
The field of 15 was cut by two at the first height, 4.30m, and by two others at the second, 4.45m. There were only eight jumpers left when the bar rose to 4.60 m.
Tina Sutej of Slovenia placed fourth after clearing 4.70m, while Katerina Stefanidi, the 2016 Olympic champion from Greece, cleared the same height, which was her best of the season.
Kennedy also tried to cross 4.90 m. She made her third attempt at 4.85m to get the top bar, but failed on her only attempt.
“It’s my first major final and obviously a medal too, so I’m thrilled,” she said.
After placing fourth at the 2014 U20 World Championships in Eugene, she said, “I wasn’t going to finish fourth yet. So getting medals was amazing. It was such a crowded lot there.
And she’s also excited to be back for more world championships.
“They’re in their 30s, I’m 25, so I’m still a little baby,” Kennedy said, “so I think I’ve got a few more years ahead of me.
Karen Rosen for World Athletics
|WOMEN’S POLE VAULT MEDALS|
|🥇||Katie Nageotte 🇺🇸 USA||4.85m WL|
|🥈||Sandi Morris 🇺🇸 USA||4.85m WL|
|🥉||Nina Kennedy 🇦🇺 AUS||4.80m DB|