February 20, 2009 / 3:27 PM / 11 years ago

Isinbayeva won't be put off by record deal

BIRMINGHAM, England (Reuters) - World, Olympic and European champion Yelena Isinbayeva said her record sponsorship deal with Chinese sportswear firm Li Ning would not distract her from breaking more pole vault records.

Russia's Yelena Isinbayeva gestures after setting a new world record of 5.00 metres at the 'Pole Vault Stars' indoor event in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk February 15, 2009. REUTERS/Valery Belokryl

Several sources told Reuters earlier this month the agreement was worth $1.5 million a year for five years, unprecedented for a track and field athlete.

“I have no details yet but the contract is signed and I hope it will start in the summer,” Isinbayeva told Reuters ahead of her participation in the Aviva Grand Prix on Saturday. “It’s nice to be first again.

“I can dedicate my time to sponsors and do something for them when I have free time but they always agree if I am busy or have a training schedule then we will postpone our appointments for another time.

“Everything is arranged for my convenience.”

Russian Isinbayeva has broken 26 world records including the existing high of 5.05 metres at the Beijing Olympics in August.

The 26-year-old, who also set a new world indoor high of 5.0 in Ukraine on Sunday, said she wanted to vault 5.20 by the end of her career.

Isinbayeva, who said the sponsorship deal would have no affect on her pursuit of retired pole vault great Sergey Bubka’s 35 world records, is seeking another record at the National Indoor Arena in Birmingham at the weekend.

The event is part of a shortened winter season during which she plans to skip the European Indoor Championships in March to focus on the lucrative Golden League that runs from June to September and which she won in 2007.

“I never get bored of setting world records because every time I get strange feelings, knowing that nobody has ever vaulted this far before,” Isinbayeva said. “It’s always a nice feeling.

ROLE MODEL

“I want to make people happy, be a role model for kids. Some of them started the pole vault because of me, they like me and ask me to continue and say ‘without you the pole vault would be boring’.

“I jump now for the crowd, not for me anymore. I like to improve my event.

“I like to show them anything is possible and if you really want something you can achieve it if you work hard, not just in sport but in your personality.”

Isinbayeva has achieved her success in the background of a modest and humble upbringing when she dreamed of becoming an Olympic gymnastics champion.

“My family helped me a lot because when I was five my mother and father took me to gymnastics just because they were working three different jobs and didn’t have time to look after me and my younger sister,” she said.

“They would take us to gymnastics rather than leave us on the streets. Year after year they made us love sport and when we grew up it was then our lifestyle.

“That was the main focal point of my life when I was young.”

Isinbayeva set Sunday’s record with a new, harder and less flexible pole but said she had not yet decided whether to use it in Birmingham.

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