After a disappointing London 2012, Brazilian pole vaulter Fabiana Murer considered retirement, but with a home Olympics on the horizon, she tells SPIKES why she couldn’t possibly walk away.

Hailing from an Olympic host nation of 200 million people is a pretty big deal. Shanghai’s Liu Xiang and Sheffield’s Jess Ennis were the last two athletes to have the added responsibility of being Face of The Games, andnow it’s the turn of the affable Fabiana Murer: Brazil’s one genuine global athletics star.

"The main motivation for me is the Olympic Games in Brazil, and because of this I decided to continue," she says. "To compete in my home country and have the home crowd on my side. I want to feel this."

Brazil is a proud sporting country. When the Olympics roll into Rio in August 2016, the home crowd will demand success in football and volleyball – and expect a strong medal haul in judo, swimming and boxing. Yet in athletics, the Games’ foremost sport, the hopes and prayers of a passionate nation will fall on Fabiana Murer.

“I had an experience at the 2007 Pan American Games, which were also held in Rio. It was amazing to compete in my country. The crowd [of around 35,000] were screaming ‘Go Brazil!’ – it was very nice. I want that feeling again.”

The Brazilian authorities have recently started to invest in athletics. Murer, 32, trains at Brazil’s very first indoor facility: the recently opened Sao Caetano do Sul complex in São Paulo state.

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Murer became 2011 world pole vault champion after a first-time 4.85m clearance, her joint PB.

“We want more tracks in Brazil,” says Murer, a former gymnast and qualified physiotherapist. “Lots of people want to do the sport but don’t know where to go. The Olympic Games will be good for Brazil. If we continue to invest I see more improvements for the 2020 Olympics and beyond.”

With more than two and a half years to go until Rio 2016, talk of the Olympics can wait. The world-class vaulter, who won world indoor and outdoor gold in 2010 and 2011 respectively, has been struggling to find her very best form.

Her preparation for the London 2012 Olympic Games had been heavily hampered by injury, and after failing to cope with windy conditions in the stadium, Murer bombed out in qualifying. For the first time since 1992, Brazil failed to win a medal in any Olympic track and field event.

“It was very sad and a bad time for me,” she says. “But then I recovered and I thought of the future.”

Murer describes her 2013 season as “not so good, not so bad”. An Achilles injury at the start of the year restricted her training and she lost 1kg of muscle due to the lack of preparation for the outdoor season. Consistent rhythm eluded her.

Nevertheless, she performed solidly at the Moscow 2013 World Championships, finishing fifth. Her year culminated with a season’s best 4.75m in Bekum, and a second place finish in Zurich.

"I could have continued for three or four more competitions,” she says. “I think I could have gone on to jump 4.80m.”

After taking an end of season break, she returned to training in early October with a renewed optimism. At 32, Murer admits it will be difficult for her to become any “faster or stronger” – but believes gains can still be made in the "technical details".

She is coached by her husband Elson Miranda de Sousa. “Yes, we talk pole vaulting a lot at home. It is my life and it is his life.”

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Murer is from São Paulo state, 400km west of Rio de Janeiro on Brazil’s southern coast. 

She plans to return to competition indoors in February, targeting the Sopot 2014 World Indoor Championships.

“After that I will look at the outdoor meetings to achieve some special results, and I hope to jump 4.90m or maybe 5m,” says Murer, whose lifetime best of 4.85m places her fifth in the all-time outdoor rankings.

“There is no major outdoor championship in 2014, but the Continental Cup [in Marrakech] is important, and there will be a big fight between me, Jenn Suhr [ USA’s Olympic champion] and Yarisley Silva [Cuba’s Olympic silver and world bronze medallist] to qualify for one of the two place on the Americas team.”

After two slightly disappointing seasons, 2014 is a massive year in the career of the three-time world medallist. Season 2016, when she turns 35, will be career-defining.

So how often does she allow herself to think of standing on the pole vault runway at the Rio Olympics?

“Not every day,” she says, flashing her trademark smile, “but I think a lot of people in Brazil speak a lot about this, and this will get more year after year.”

And how does she cope with the mounting expectations of 200 million people?

“As an athlete you can’t get too involved in the hype. You just have to forget everything and try and focus on the jump and technique. It is not a big problem for me.”