- 25 Oct 2010
Up Close and Personal with Frank Fredericks and Yelena Isinbaeva
Youth Olympic Games Young Reporters Luke Dufficy from Australia and Thiam Peng Tan from Singapore quizzed Olympic legends Frank Fredericks and Yelena Isinbaeva as part of their training in Singapore.
Former Namibian sprinter Frank Fredericks says he could have won Olympic gold if he was more “ruthless” during his career. The former World Champion, World Record holder and four-time Olympic silver medallist was speaking to a group of young reporters at the first Youth Olympic Games in Singapore.
“I was probably thinking of different things which didn’t give me an advantage,” said Fredericks, when asked what he felt before a race. “I think if I was more ruthless I probably would have won four gold medals rather than four silver.”
Fredericks, who is his nation’s only Olympic medallist, acknowledged Olympic gold is the only thing missing from his trophy cabinet. “Looking back now it’s the only thing I don’t have, so it would be nice to have one in the cupboard.” But after six years of retirement Fredericks is content with his achievements. “I’ve tried my best. But there’s now an opportunity for another youngster to have that dream of being Namibia’s first gold medallist.”
Fredericks also hopes to see an African nation hosting an Olympic Games in the near future: “After South Africa hosted a wonderful and, what I think, a successful FIFA World Cup, I think it shows Africa is ready.” (Luke Dufficy, Australia)
Asked about her first meeting with fellow pole-vaulting legend Sergey Bubka, Yelena Isinbaeva turns into a hyperactive fan, describing in animated detail how she had once sought a photograph with him in Sydney in 2000. She recounts this with the Ukranian seated beside her, at the Chat with Champions programme in the Youth Olympic Village, where the two superstars met YOG athletes.
“Sacrifices,” she said, were her biggest challenge, because “all my young girl’s life was sacrificed for sports. And all of you must do it too. You won’t lead a normal life like your friends.”
Her pre-competition routine includes staying alone in her room the night before, not doing anything at all.
“I focus on myself. I imagine.” She imagines her best jump. She imagines looking over the bar as if she has cleared it. The three-time IAAF World Athlete of the Year holds the honour of being the first woman to clear the holy five-metre mark. But it was not all smooth sailing. Last year, Isinbaeva lost twice, including at the World Championships in Berlin. “I cried for two days after the Berlin defeat. I couldn’t believe it.”
“Winning, not so hard. Breaking records, a little harder. I thought I could do it forever. So I was relaxing and wasn’t 100 per cent focused. When I was looking at the new world champion I realised I wanted to be the best again. I took a break, went out, and did everything I like. I had a lot of ice cream!”
Isinbaeva rewrote the pole vault mark to 5.06 metres just eleven days later. “There is so much I can achieve. It took a defeat for me to realise this.”
Many are also intrigued by what she mumbles to herself every time before a jump. But Isinbaeva is keeping mum, calling it “nothing special”. She was more forthcoming on her Ambassador role, however: “Make friends and learn about each other’s culture. When you go home, share with others what you learnt here.” (Thiam Peng Tan, Singapore)