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Stefanidi cleared 4.85 metres to beat American Sandi Morris. Morris also cleared 4.85 but took silver because of more failed attempts earlier in the competition. New Zealand's Eliza McCartney tied her national record of 4.80 and took bronze.
Stefanidi shouted in ecstasy as she cleared the bar at 4.85 and celebrated before she even landed. She reacted to her title win: “I can't believe what’s happened. It’s amazing, the crowd was amazing, my parents are here. I’m glad to make my country proud.”
An Olympic medal was her goal from a young age: “It’s one of the hardest events to compete in. I started so young. I was pole vaulting at 10 and at 11 I started breaking age-group world records.”
Silver medallist Morris, who broke her wrist in May and had to make a speedy recovery to compete in Rio, said: “This means the world to me. It’s been a dream since I was a little girl. There was a lot of tough competition out there. I was so close to gold. I never thought I’d be a little disappointed. Silver is great though. My parents are track and field athletes, they’ve flown out, so this is their dream too.”
19-year-old McCartney surprised herself with the bronze-winning performance: “When I qualified for these Games that was enough. Obviously everybody goes out there and they want to win a medal but I can't say I was actually expecting this. I think that five metres is seen as a real barrier for women's pole vault but I don’t think it will last very long. The sport is evolving very quickly.”