PRAGUE – World and Olympic pole vault champion Yelena Isinbayeva has often said that she aims to be one of the sport’s most positive role models and most visible stars. Her recent record endorsement deal, she said, is just the latest step in fulfilling those lofty ambitions.
“I think my example will help athletics go even higher than it is now,” said Isinbayava, speaking at a press conference on the eve of the inaugural Meeting of World Record Holders in the Czech capital where she will be aiming for the 27th world record of her career.
Last week, Reuters reported that Isinbayava’s sponsorship deal with Chinese sportswear firm Li Ning was worth $7.5 million (€ 5.9 million) over five years, unprecedented for a track and field athlete.
Isinbayeva neither confirmed nor denied the figure today, but said she believes her deal will ultimately help the sport in general and other track athletes in particular enter the lucrative but fiercely competitive world of high end endorsements.
“Athletics is the most popular Olympic sport, the Olympics begin and end on the athletics field,” she said.
“I hope that this will be only the first step to raise the status and standing of the sport.”
Prague will mark the third and final competition of her brief indoor season. In her season’s debut in Donetsk, Ukraine, on Feb. 15, the 26-year-old Russian twice raised her own world mark, first to 4.97m [16-3 ½ ] and then again to 5.00m [16-4 ¾ ].
Isinbayeva revealed that she suffered a minor injury during her warm-up at the Aviva Indoor Grand Prix in Birmingham, England, last Saturday, when she twisted her take-off leg after an awkward landing. She competed anyway, clearing 4.82m [15-9 ¾ ], but the pain, she said, came later.
“But It’s better now, it’s fine now,” she said.
Isinbayeva said that among her goals in 2009 are a successful defense of her world title at the World Championships in Berlin in August, and to add to her world record tally.
“Our plan is to break maybe three or four more World records this year.”
Yelena Isinbayeva at the pre-meet press conference in Prague today. Credit: Bob Ramsak/TRACK PROFILE Report.