Pole vaulter Alysha Newman searching for elusive Diamond League victory

Feeling healthy and rounding into peak form six weeks before the world track and field championships isn’t enough for Alysha Newman to focus on setting meet records on the Diamond League circuit.

The Canadian pole vaulter has never shied away from admitting she dreams of one day surpassing Yelena Isinbayeva’s 5.06-metre world record, and it’s the Russian who holds the Meeting de Paris mark of 4.91 entering Saturday’s competition in France (CBCSports.ca, 2 p.m. ET). But Newman won’t broach the subject.

“I’m doing everything I can to win my first Diamond League meet and that’s where my head is at,” the 25-year-old said Wednesday over the phone from Germany before clearing 4.50 for the win at the Festungsspringen International Pole Vault Meet. “The 4.91 record is high but do I think I can get it? Of course, but I’m not looking at Diamond League records as much as a world record.”

The Diamond League mark of 5.00 belongs to world No. 2 Sandi Morris of the United States, one of many world championship medal favourites that will compete alongside Newman this weekend at the 20,000-seat Charléty Stadium as no fewer than six women in the field of 11 have cleared 4.85 this season.

American Jenn Suhr, 37, has the world’s leading jump of 2019 at 4.91.

Newman, though, is brimming with confidence after placing second to reigning Olympic and world champion Katerina Stefanidi — Newman’s best-ever Diamond League result — at the Müller Grand Prix last Sunday in Birmingham, U.K.

WATCH | Alysha Newman clears 4.65 metres in Birmingham:

Alysha Newman finishes second in the women’s pole vault event in Birmingham with clearance of 4.65 metres. 0:41

Solid comeback season

In her third Diamond League season, Newman achieved her goal of clearing every bar on the first attempt, jumping 4.65 before calling it a day as swirling winds at Alexander Stadium made it too dangerous for her and others to continue. Stefanidi, the three-time defending Diamond League champion, managed to get a tailwind on her third and final attempt at 4.75 and won the event.

“I was ready to jump higher, was in a good spot [mentally] and thought I was going to have an attempt at 4.82,” said Newman, the London, Ont., native whose 4.77 personal-best achieved earlier this year is a Canadian record. “It’s very hard to win in Diamond League. For me to be one step closer, I’m excited and feel this is my year to win one.”

Reigning Olympic and world pole vault champion Katerina Stefanidi boasts a 4-0 record this season against Newman. The Greek athlete is also the three-time defending Diamond League champion. (Submitted by IAAF)

The 2018 Commonwealth Games gold medallist has come back strongly this season from a partial tear in the middle of her left patellar tendon, which attaches the bottom of the kneecap to the top of the shinbone. On July 17, Newman cleared 4.77 at the Stabhochsprung Jockgrim meet in Germany to break her national mark for the second time in six weeks.

“I feel really good,” said the world’s ninth-ranked women’s pole vaulter, who thought she had re-injured the tendon on July 4 at a Diamond League meet in Switzerland but it was scar tissue breaking away from the patellar area. “When I jumped 4.76 [on June 7 in Guelph, Ont.] and then 4.77, I didn’t feel I was in my best shape.

“My coaches [Doug Wood and Zeke Krykorka at Bolton Pole Vault] are getting me to be in peak form about now until the end of October.”

WATCH | Listen to Newman discuss what she wants from pole vaulting:

Although Alysha Newman’s appearance and Twitter feed sometimes makes headlines more than her results, Canada’s top pole vaulter is committed to being one of the best vaulters to ever live. 2:50

More mature, relaxed on runway

Contributing to Newman’s success this season is her feeling more mature and relaxed on the runway by using much of the allotted time to prepare for each jump. She took a deep breath and trusted her ability while battling the wind in Birmingham, and it paid off.

Light winds and a temperature of 30 C are forecasted for Saturday in Paris, where women’s pole vault begins at 1:40 p.m. ET. Newman will try to grab bragging rights from Stefanidi of Greece, who is undefeated in four meetings this season against the Canadian.

“I think what I’ve learned the most about Katerina is how consistent she is,” said Newman, who won her third Canadian title in the past four years last month in Montreal. “Any day she competes, she knows she could jump between 4.60 and 4.75 and Diamond League meets are being won this season at 4.75, 4.80.

“As an Olympic and world champion, she has this aura about her. She feels and knows she’s No. 1. That’s how I went into the Commonwealth Games and it worked in my favour.”

Other Canadians competing in Paris:

Aaron Brown, men’s 200 metres (2:57 p.m. ET): The Toronto native, who has clinched a spot at the Diamond League final on Sept. 6 in Brussels, returns to Diamond League action after successfully defending his Canadian title in a wind-assisted 20.03 seconds on July 28.

With a season-best 19.95, Brown will look to upset American Noah Lyles, who clocked a personal-best 19.50 in Switzerland on July 5, the fourth-best 200 ever.

The 27-year-old will also compete in the men’s 4×100 relay for Canada, scheduled for 4:12 p.m.

WATCH | Aaron Brown repeats as Canadian 200-metre champion:

Aaron Brown wins the men’s 200-metre final with a time of 20.03 seconds. 0:28
Mike Mason, men’s high jump (2:09 p.m.): Mason, 32, is seeking his fifth win of the season in nine meets. After a season-low jump of 2.21 metres in early July, the native of Nanoose Bay, B.C., picked things up at nationals with a winning jump of 2.26 and went 2.28 on Aug. 9 to capture a silver medal at the Pan Am Games in Peru. His season-best is 2.31, set on April 5.

Diamond League on CBC Sports

CBC Sports is providing live streaming coverage of all 14 Diamond League meets this season at CBCSports.ca and via the CBC Sports app for iOS and Android devices. TV coverage will be featured as part of the network’s Road To The Olympic Games weekend broadcasts throughout the season.

The following is a list of upcoming Diamond League meets, all times ET:

  • Paris (Saturday, 2–4 p.m.)
  • Zurich (Aug. 29, 2–4 p.m.)
  • Brussels (Sept. 7, 2–4 p.m.)

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