The 2016 World Indoor Championships catapulted into action tonight with the pole vault finals. And that can mean only one thing: it’s time for the Portland Wrap!
For you a rose in Portland grows
When we arrived at PDX last week we were treated to a Portland welcome from the Royal Rosarians, the city’s official greeters. Blinking and red-eyed, we didn’t really know what to make of the genial, rotund pair in their white wide-rimmed hats and suits, yet we accepted their adhesive rose on our lapel like we did our unexpected invite to Wednesday night's official opening meal.
And it was there that we were reminded of the Rosarians, who were again on hand to present us with a pin badge, accompanied by their rather charming refrain: For You a Rose in Portland Grows.
With a week’s worth of body clock correcting sleep under our travel belts we were able to properly enjoy their warm embrace. Apparently these guys have been in the welcoming business since 1912, which is grounds enough to say Bridgetown has been keeping it weird for 104 years.
Rain, rain, go away
The other traditional Oregon welcome we were given was seven days of endless rain.
It. Did. Not. Stop.
Until Wednesday, when from nowhere came one of the most glorious March days your Waterfront Park wedding could wish for. Same again Thursday, which gave us perfect conditions for the press conference that took place at a Vit D-drenched Pioneer Courthouse Square. 😎
Sweaty, not stuffy
Press conferences are normally stuffy affairs, but on a public stage with questions from real life human beings (not just hungover hacks) there was a fresh feel to proceedings.
It was strangely fascinating watching the world’s best athletes and the sport’s top administrators perched together on bar stools. It’s a thought we pondered a little too much, blanking IAAF President Seb Coe as he waved from the stage. By the time we snapped back to our senses it was too late, leaving us hot under the collar to say the least, and not just because of the blazing sun. Soz, boss.
A streetcar named track and field
From there it was just a short ride on the MAX over the Willamette to the Oregon Convention Center. The lovely people behind Portland 2016 have supplied a shed load of free passes for the city’s comprehensive tram network (and we’re not even over 60!).
Trundling from Downtown over the Steel Bridge (see above) is one of life’s subtle pleasures, and today it was made even better knowing that it was taking us to watch world class athletics.
And so, indeed, on to the athletics. The organisers knew the pole vault would be one of the top events at this champs, which is why they gave it sole focus on the opening night. It certainly didn’t disappoint.
First: the women. Jenn Suhr set a championship record on her way to winning her first global title since 2012. Anything less would not have cut the mustard.
The women produced the highest (literally, obvs) standard pole vault competition in history – the first time ever five women had made it past 4.70m. USA's combative Sandi Morris described it best as a “women’s pole vaulting movement,” and it certainly felt like it as she topped out with a 4.85m for silver.
But it was Suhr who would avenge her defeat to Morris at last week’s national champs, needing just four jumps to hit 4.90m and take the gold. Classy and efficient.
Eat my vault
Eight sprint lanes away from the women, Renaud Lavillenie was busy stealing the show in the men’s comp. The world record holder shrugged his way to gold with just two jumps (5.75m and 5.90m). Like Suhr, classy and efficient; and also like Suhr, securing a first global title since 2012.
Then came the exhibition. Lav' cleared 6.02m with the ease before attempting a world record 6.17m. His three failed attempts included a spectacular six metre face plant into the box. Arena-wide heart attack averted, the OCC swooned as he took gold with the sort of nonchalance they teach at kindergarten back in France. Super chouette!