AS THE REIGNING Olympic champion, Katie Nageotte perhaps should have been a shoo-in for at least a medal at the WC.
But there she was on the formchart at No. 4, even after a silver in March at the World Indoor.
Why? Her outdoor season had been a struggle, courtesy to recovering from a bad second bout with COVID.
Despite vaulting with an abbreviated run-up (6 lefts as opposed to 8 in Tokyo last year) she mustered up the strength to win a tense competition over her new-found training partner in arch-rival Sandi Morris, the pre-meet favorite.
The competition lacked its usual depth. Three of the year’s top-5 vaulters — reigning champ Anzhelika Sidorova and Polina Knoroz of Russia along with Irina Zhuk of Belarus — weren’t able to enter. Four more in the formchart’s Top 10 — including Tokyo bronze medalist Holly Bradshaw — didn’t advance out of the qualifying.
On her final practice jump Bradshaw had her pole snap as she planted. She landed awkwardly on the back of her neck while also hurting her arm, back and a hamstring. “I was crying in the box, sobbing,” she said after dropping out. “It was a massive, massive shock.”
As the bar rose to the fifth height of the night, 15-9 (4.80), 5 remained and Morris was alone with a clean slate. Tina Šutej of Slovenia was tied with Australia’s Nina Kennedy for 2nd. Nageotte was 4th ahead of Rio gold medalist Katerína Stefanídi of Greece.
Kennedy — at 25 the only sub-30-year-old of the remaining group — took control with the first clearance, followed immediately by Morris. On second attempts, Nageotte joined the group while Stefanídi passed and Arkansas alum Šutej missed before bowing out after a third miss.
The medals were sorted at 15-11 (4.85). Nageotte made a first-attempt clearance, her third-straight outdoor best of the year and an outdoor world leader. Morris was the only other who could match the bar, but her outdoor SB was on her second attempt.
Drama was still left at 16-¾ (4.90). Kennedy missed her only attempt, while Nageotte and Morris missed all three to seal the standings. Morris had two close attempts.
Nageotte, 31, said she started to feel like herself after the Rome DL in early June. “I tried to build on that and tried to block out earlier in the year — the negativity and anxiety — as much as possible,” she said. “Coming in here for the Trials, I felt really good; I just tried not to think too much about the things that happened earlier.”
Morris — runner-up in this meet for the third-straight time — was understandably disappointed after a fourth career major silver. “I have to say that I am not very much happy about this medal. But my happiness for Katie is separate from what I feel about my performance.”
The USA’s gold and silver was just the second in this meet, matching Poland in ’09. It was the third American gold, as the U.S. now matches Russia with 8 medals overall.
WOMEN’S VAULT RESULTS
FINAL (July 17)
(temperature 77F/25C; humidity 44%)
1. Katie Nageotte (US) 15-11 (4.85) (AL, out WL);
2. Sandi Morris (US) 15-11 (4.85) (=AL, =out WL);
3. Nina Kennedy (Aus) 15-9 (4.80);
4. Tina Šutej (Slo) 15-5 (4.70);
5. Katerína Stefanídi (Gre) 15-5 (4.70);
=6. Ling Li (Chn) 15-1 (4.60);
=6. Wilma Murto (Fin) 15-1 (4.60);
8. Angelica Moser (Swi) 15-1 (4.60);
9. Anicka Newell (Can) 14-7¼ (4.45);
10. Jacqueline Otchere (Ger) 14-7¼ (4.45);
11. Ninon Chapelle (Fra) 14-7¼ (4.45);
12. Gabriela Leon (US) 14-1¼ (4.30);
13. Huiqin Xu (Chn) 14-1¼ (4.30);
… nh—Margot Chevrier (Fra), Olivia McTaggart (NZ).
(July 15; auto-qualifier 15-3/4.65)
Qualifiers: Moser, Šutej, Leon & Li cleared 14-3¼/4.35, all other finalists 14-9/4.50;
Non-qualifiers: [14-3¼/4.35]—Saga Andersson (Fin) ; Lisa Gunnarsson (Swe), Alysha Newman (Can), Roberta Bruni (Ita), Elisa Molinarolo (Ita), Maryna Kylypko (Ukr), Eléni-Klaoúdia Pólak (Gre), Yana Hladiychuk (Ukr), Nikoléta Kiriakopoúlou (Gre);
[13-9¼/4.20]—Molly Caudery (GB), Elina Lampela (Fin), Chunge Niu (Chn), Amálie Švábíková (CzR);
[nh]—Imogen Ayris (NZ), Holly Bradshaw (GB) (injured in warmups).