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Dragila Vaults Into History


Many athletes will leave the world track and field championships
in Seville as victors; Stacy Dragila left as a trailblazer.
Dragila won the first world outdoor title in women's pole
vaulting last Saturday night with a world-record-equaling 15'1".
A 28-year-old former heptathlete who began vaulting
competitively five years ago as a junior at Idaho State, Dragila
has improved by five feet since taking up the event and has
helped raise the profile of women's vaulting, which will make
its Olympic debut in Sydney. "I'm part of history now," she said
last weekend. "That's forever."

In Seville, Dragila won a thrilling battle with Anzhela
Balakhonova of Ukraine. Dragila's victory wasn't secure until
Balakhonova narrowly missed at 15'3". Dragila also missed at
that height, but Balakhonova had failed to clear 15'1".

Sadly, the IAAF, track and field's governing body, didn't treat
the women's vault and the other new event for women, the hammer
throw (which was to be contested on Tuesday), with the respect
they deserved. Medalists in every other event at the worlds
received $60,000 for winning gold, $30,000 for silver and
$20,000 for bronze. Medalists in the two new women's events got
$30,000, $15,000 and $10,000. "I hope next year [in Sydney] they
don't give us half a medal," said Dragila.

A year ago Dragila was a long shot to make it to Seville. In the
summer of 1997 she suffered an injury to her left calf during a
vault in the Czech Republic. Instead of resting, she continued
to vault and while favoring her calf, hurt her plant (right)
foot, an injury that plagued her for more than a year before it
was properly diagnosed as a fracture of the navicular and
surgically repaired last September. The foot injury caused her
to have a miserable '98 season, including a no-height at the
Goodwill Games.

Now she's pushing women's vaulting higher than many cynics
thought it would go. "People said the women would get to no more
than 14 feet, and now we're over 15," says Dragila. "I think 16
feet is possible before long. Maybe not next year, but

--Tim Layden