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At about 12 minutes past midnight, with the Olympic flame billowing in the background, Yelena Isinbayeva, the Russian pole vaulter, brought down the curtain on a memorable Tuesday night's athletics in the Olympic stadium by achieving that increasing rarity: an athletics world record.

Talking away to herself, as she had all night, the 22 year old from Volgograd set off down the runway and soared over the bar set at 4.91m, just a centimetre above her old world mark.

This set the seal on a superlative competition in which, when not burying her head in her Russian team towel, she had duelled with compatriot and perennial rival Svetlana Feofanova. The 24-year-old Muscovite, a former gymnast, had gone out of the contest rather anti-climactically a few minutes earlier, plunging well under the bar with her only attempt at 4.90m, 2cm above her personal best, set earlier this year.

In truth, if there were one athletics event you would have picked to yield a new world record in Athens, it was this one. The discipline is relatively new for women - this being only the second Olympics at which it has been included - and the rivalry of the two Russians has taken it to new heights.

Isinbayeva's previous record had lasted less than a month, as had the smaller, nimbler Feofanova's mark of 4.88m before it.

Earlier in the evening, it had looked just for a moment as if the pole vault might unexpectedly become the Pole vault, when Anna Rogowska soared gracefully over 4.70m. But three failures at 4.75m put paid to her chances, and she had to be content with the bronze medal, ahead of compatriot Monika Pyrek in fourth place.

Missing was Stacy Dragila of the US, the Olympic champion, who had failed to qualify for Tuesday night's final.

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