Naroa leaps into the whirlwind
Spain's 28-year-old pole vault champ bids to reinvent technique before Beijing.
8 January 2008
BILBAO - Hoping to leap into medal contention in Beijing next summer, Spanish pole-vaulting hopeful Naroa Agirre has just returned from a month at the Formia Olympic training centre in southern Italy, where she described working with Ukrainian Vitaly Petrov, considered the best pole vault coach in the world, as "madness." But she meant it in a good way.
"I have been so lucky to work with him. He is able to correct every aspect of an athlete's jumping. He is only interested in perfection," says Agirre of the man who trained Soviet giant Sergei Bubka, the vaulter who became a household name in the 1980s through his many gold medal performances and continual inching up of the world record - the latter being a lucrative strategy eagerly followed by Isinbayeva.
Currently the Spanish women's champion and holder of the national record of 4.56 metres, the 28-year-old was working out six hours a day alongside the Russian world record holder and the discipline's first genuine female star, Yelena Isinbayeva.
"I've got so much new information that I'm actually a little disoriented," Agirre admits ahead of the World Indoors Championships in Valencia, which begin in March.
Agirre, who normally trains with her husband Jon Karla Lizeaga, believes she can beat her current best of 4.56m. "We wanted to try with Petrov; I needed to give my career a push," she explains.
At Formia, Petrov took charge not only of supervising Agirre, but also of Karla's coaching technique. "He corrects everything. He changed so many things about the way I am used to jumping, that at times I felt completely lost. Until now I was working on my 12-step technique. But in Formia it was different, although he understood exactly what he was doing. He explains to you how you can improve your knee position, the waist, and even the way you throw a medicine ball. All you can think is: 'Of course, why didn't I think of that before?'"
She says that Petrov treats all the athletes under his supervision with the same care, regardless of their previous achievements. "He told us all the best ways to progress, even Isinbayeva," says Agirre. The Russian vaulter, who has been training in Italy with Petrov for the last three years, has competed against Agirre on several occasions. Agirre says she wanted to see her rival in training and get an idea of the methods that have allowed her to reach seemingly impossible heights.
Agirre says that the routine over the last month has been "very intense, almost madness," and that she had no time for anything other than training, sleeping, and eating.
"I will have to go back to Formia - I don't know when, and probably for shorter periods," she says, adding: "The approach to work there and the philosophy is completely different. You learn so much. Besides which, they really take an interest in you as a person, and they see how you are adapting, how you are taking in what they are teaching."
For the moment, Agirre says that she will be implementing Petrov's whirlwind of proposed changes in small doses. "At the indoor championships I want to use my technique, which I still haven't perfected according to Petrov, but it's mine. Then, with the Olympics in sight, I will reapply everything that he has taught me."
[Copyright El Pais / JORGE GARMA 2008]
Subject: Spanish news