Australian Nina Kennedy, fresh from sharing world championships gold with American Katie Moon in Budapest last week, ensured a stand-alone victory in another nail-biting pole vault competition at the Zurich Diamond League meeting on Wednesday.
Kennedy and Moon, who won Olympic gold in Tokyo two years ago and took the 2022 world title in Eugene under her maiden name of Nageotte, shared gold after tying in the Hungarian capital. There was no shortage of drama in Zurich, but another shared victory never looked likely as Kennedy won with an Oceania record, personal best and meet record of 4.91 metres.
“I am really surprised! And I am so happy. This is all my dreams come true, I love Zurich,” said Kennedy. “Now I will fly home to Australia before travelling to Eugene where I hope to win the final,” she said in reference to the Diamond League finals in Oregon on September 16-17.
The pole vault was held a day earlier than the main Diamond League programme at the famed Letzigrund Stadium, on a specially constructed track at Zurich Hauptbahnhof, the city’s main train station. A seated temporary tribune overlooked the runway, while thousands of commuters swelled around the landing mat, lending the event a surreal feeling as trains pulled in and out of platforms just metres away.
Dance music boomed and the crowd, often just passing, were left roaring in delight or gasping in disappointment as the 10-strong field took it in turns to thunder down the raised track. American Sandi Morris, who missed out on US selection for the Budapest world championships, twice pulled it out of the bag, vaulting clear at the third time of asking at 4.66 and 4.76.
Moon, however, vaulted just once until then, clearing 4.66m with ease. When Kennedy passed 4.81m on her first attempt – a personal best and Oceania record – the pressure was back on Moon, but the American kept her nerve to mirror the Australian’s success. The bar was raised to 4.86, Morris having had one failure at 4.81.
Morris bombed her first attempt at 4.86 but Kennedy improved on her PB and Oceania record by vaulting clear to set a new world-leading mark. Morris, who set a Zurich Diamond League record of 4.87m at the same station setting back in 2017, was then eliminated, leaving just Moon and Kennedy in the running.
Moon boldly passed at 4.86 and the bar was raised to 4.91. Kennedy was first on the runway, making no mistake in a remarkable vault, but Moon didn’t get close on her first effort. Moon skipped and the bar went up to 4.96m. Kennedy failed on her opening effort at the height, as did Moon.
The Australian didn’t get anywhere near on her second effort, but neither did Moon, handing Kennedy the victory amid an electric atmosphere. “I did not get my run dialled in soon enough. It took me a minute to get comfortable with the runway,” said Moon, adding that she was not surprised at Kennedy’s winning height. “I had a feeling it would go high today.”
Finland’s world bronze medallist Wilma Murto had three no marks to finish in last place.
Australia’s Nina Kennedy celebrates after winning the pole vault event at the Zurich Diamond League meeting on Wednesday. (AFP)