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Sports

Pole vaulter Spiegelburg takes flight in London

Silke Spiegelburg is among the better-known members of the German track and field team. The pole vaulter is coached by her father, and takes after her three brothers.

When a young girl grows up with three older brothers, some of the things the boys like to do get rubbed off, like soccer, cars, or - in the case of Silke Spiegelburg and her three brothers - pole vaulting. Spiegelburg remembers watching her brothers practice as a kid.

"I thought it was really fascinating how they fell into that huge mat," the 26-year-old recalls. "This moment of flying. My dad noticed that I wanted to do it too and he gave the OK."

At first, the moment of flying was pretty short.

"That was really depressing, I was always back down so quickly with those first few meters I jumped," she said. But that just made her want to keep going higher and higher.

"That just makes the flight even longer, and that's my goal - to let the flight go on for as long as possible!"

4.8 meters for a medal

Those flights have carried Spiegelburg to a personal best height of 4.76 meters (15 feet, 7.4 inches). But the bar is going to be even higher at the Olympics in London.

"I think it will take a vault of around 4.8 meters to get a medal," she said. "At the world championship you could already see that the international competition is very strong and it was clear again this winter."

Germany's Silke Spiegelburg

Spiegelburg lives to fly off the pole

At the European indoor championship in Paris last year, the junior world-record holder took silver with a vault of 4.75 meters. She was fourth at the European outdoor championship, that time with 4.5 meters. After a seventh place finish at the Beijing Olympics four years ago, Spiegelburg set a few goals.

"I want to reach the final for sure," she said. "And once I've got that behind me, I want to be among the best."

Women's pole vaulting has changed quite a bit in the last few years, and many of the athletes are close to the same level.

"It really comes down to your form on a particular day. So I want get more than 100 percent out of myself," Spiegelburg said.

In order to make sure everything is perfect the day she competes, the student of health economics has developed a ritual: yoga.

"I've been doing that a few years and it's good for me. I think I'm going to keep doing it," she said.

Highlight: the Olympic village

Competition aside, the Olympics are still something special. Spiegelburg says the best part is the atmosphere among the athletes. That's especially true of where the athletes are only among themselves: in the Olympic village.

"The cafeteria is the best," Spiegelburg said. "All the athletes meet there, all the nations are there, and it's just really mixed - there's music, a good vibe. That's an atmosphere that you have to experience once."

In the senior class, Spiegelburg has yet to win a title. But when she was in the youth ranks, she collected win after win and even has the world record to her name. She's been studying the competition, and maybe London will provide the chance for her first medal in the big time.

Author: Olivia Fritz / mz
Editor: Rina Goldenberg