It was showmanship at its absolute brilliant best. An expectant home crowd waiting with bated breath, the gold medal already in the bag, the rest of the evening's action over and done with, all eyes trained on the diva, who milked the moment. It made for compelling viewing even on television; one can only imagine what the atmosphere must have been like thousands of miles away, at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.
The stage was the World Championships of athletics, the person in question the peerless Yelena Isinbayeva. At 31, the awe-inspiring Russian is the undisputed queen of pole vault. She has been there and done that, stacking up an impressive list of accomplishments on her own that many countries will be hard pressed to match. Coming into the Moscow meet, Isinbayeva had in her cabinet two World Championships gold, two Olympic Games gold, four World Indoor titles and a whopping 28 world records to her name. These are staggering numbers, and the word staggering isn't used loosely.
Isinbayeva came into the Worlds short on form, upstaged by young pretenders confident in their abilities to beard the ageing lioness in her own den. They had their reasons, of course. Isinbayeva's career was on the downward spiral - she had failed to win a medal at each of the two previous World Championships, and had to settle for bronze at the London Olympics last year. For four years, especially outdoors, she had struggled to keep pace with the younger guns, perhaps a victim of her own success, which left her a little short on motivation.