Olympic champ Katerina Stefanidi wins women's garden pole vault comp

Greece's Rio 2016 gold medallist stormed to victory in 'Ultimate Garden Clash' from Katie Nageotte and Alysha Newman.

By Rory Jiwani ·

Olympic pole vault champion Katerina Stefanidi took victory in the first women's 'Ultimate Garden Clash' competition on Saturday (16 May).

Pan American Games silver medallist Katie Nageotte was second, ahead of reigning Commonwealth champion Alysha Newman.

Needing to clear 4.00m as many times as possible in two 15-minute sessions, Greece's Rio 2016 gold medallist managed a total of 34 with Nageotte on 30 and Newman back on 21.

Stefanidi would have performed even better but for two failures, the last of which cost her plenty of time as she struggled to put the bar back in place.

"My arms were so tired at the end." - Katerina Stefanidi

Stefanidi defies the Athens heat

The first Ultimate Garden Clash was held two weeks ago with world record holder Mondo Duplantis and London 2012 gold medallist Renaud Lavillenie tying for the win ahead of double world champion Sam Kendricks in the event streamed live by World Athletics.

While watching the three men compete, Stefanidi expressed her wish on social media to take part in a similar coronavirus lockdown competition.

Despite her perennial rival Sandi Morris missing the event having undergone treatment for a knee cartilage injury, Stefanidi still faced formidable opposition from North America.

None of the three have garden set-ups, so they were connected by video link from their local training centres - Stefanidi in the Greek capital Athens, Nageotte in Marietta, Georgia, and Newman in Bolton, Ontario.

Stefanidi only returned to training earlier this week as Greece relaxed some of its COVID lockdown measures.

With Nageotte and Stefanidi boasting personal bests of 4.91m and Newman's Canadian record standing at 4.82m, the 4m height should not have proved too difficult.

But Newman made the worst possible start to the live-streamed event, knocking the bar off with her first attempt and - as per the rules of the competition - having to replace it herself.

Wrapped up warm in the cold of Ontario, she struggled in the first session, and two more failures and bar replacements saw her lose ground on her rivals.

By contrast, Stefanidi and Nageotte had to encase their mobile phones in ice to be able to beam back video of their jumps.

And despite temperatures touching 40 degrees Celsius in Athens, it was Stefanidi who flew out of the blocks with seven clearances inside the first four and a half minutes.

Nageotte had a countdown timer which saw her make a jump every minute, but she could not keep up with the pace set by the Olympic champion.

At the midway point, Stefanidi led with 19 from Nageotte on 16 and Newman back on 12.

American Nageotte suffered a setback at the start of the second session, hitting the bar and losing time as she put the bar back.

After 23 successful clearances, Stefanidi had her first failure.

The Greek star was quickly back into her rhythm and looked to have the 36 recorded by Lavillenie and Duplantis in sight, but another failure inside the last four minutes and a couple of botched attempts to replace the bar saw her miss out.

Her 34 was enough for victory, and she told viewers afterwards, "I think I could have pushed it if I had put the bar up faster. But then I realised there was no way."

She added that she would be open to another garden clash, saying, "It's a great way to shut our brains off and get off the ground and just make the bar. Sometimes you just need to do that in pole vault instead of thinking too much."

Katerina Stefanidi: How I am dealing with my lack of self-belief

Olympic pole vault champion Katerina Stefanidi and her husband Mitchell Kri...

When asked if she had enjoyed it, runner-up Nageotte replied, "I did up until the second half of the second half. With the humidity, it's pretty comparable to the heat that Kat is dealing with because I have the sun right over my head. But that's about as much fun as I can have in an endurance competition."

Newman spoke of the new sensation of feeling a build-up of lactic acid between jumps.

The Canadian said, "Usually you feel calm at all times during a competition, apart from when the minute countdown starts and the adrenalin builds up. Whereas this, my legs started getting 'thicker', I was getting pulled down to the ground. You just had to keep thinking, 'Tall knees, tall toes, tall at take-off.'

"I felt so heavy the entire second half but it's the happiest third place I've ever had."

Before the competition, the three women said they were targeting a total of 100 clearances in 30 minutes after the men managed 98 two weekends ago.

They were level with the men at halfway on 47, but lost touch after the break and eventually finished on 85.