Nike Talks World Indoors 2018: Week 2, Day 3, Ekaterina Stefanidi opens season this weekend, with eyes on Birmingham in March

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This is the second week, second day of the Nike Talks World Indoors Series. Thanks to Nike Sports Marketing, @runblogrun will provide a Monday-Friday story on a key athlete from US, Great Britain, Europe, Africa and Asia. On the weekends, we will go back in World Indoor history and provide a favorite moment. This sponsorship goes from January1-March 5. We hope you enjoy. And please check out www.nikerunning.com. Remember to support our sponsors. They are supporting the heart of running.

Today, we are writing about 2017 London World Champ, 2017 European Indoor Champ, and 2016 Rio Olympic champ, pole vaulter Ekaterina Stefanidi.

And always remember to check out www.wicbirmingham2018.com

Stefanidi_Ekaterini1-Brussels17.jpgEkaterina Stefanidi, photo by PhotoRun.net

Ekaterina Stefanidi has been around the pole vault since she was a young girl. Both her parents were athletes. Her father, Georgios Stefanidi, was a triple jumper, and her mother, Zoi Vareli, was a sprinter. Ekaterina set youth records for ages 11-14 in the pole vault, and at the age of 15, set the World Youth record of 4.37 meters.

Stefanidi_Ekaterini-Brussels17.jpgEkaterina Stefanidi, photo by PhotoRun.net

Stefanidi won World Youth in 2005, took silver in 2007 and was bronze medalist in World Juniors in 2008. Ekaterina Stefanidi went to Stanford for undergrad, and then, Arizona State for graduate school. Among her titles are NCAA Indoor and Outdoor, PAC-12, and numerous Stanford school records.

In 2014, Ekaterina began to soar. At the adidas GP in NYC, Stefanidi took 4th, hitting a PB of 4.60m. Another PB came in Glasgow, at the Diamond League, where Ekaterina took third and set another PB, 4.65m. But that was not her final PB of the season, as a week before the 2014 European Outdoor Championships, where Ekaterina took the silver, Stefanidi had cleared 4.71m, a Greek NR!

While Stefanidi was improving her PBs, the constant refrain from those who watched her vault was that Stefanidi was highly competitive. In 2015, Ekaterina Stefanidi set four PBs indoors, with her clearances of 4.57m, 4.61m, 4.62m and finally a short lived Greek NR of 4.77m). The young Greek star took the silver in Prague at the 2015 European Indoor Championships.

Something in 2015 clicked. Ekaterina Stefanidi seemed to have more confidence, and she showed it in 2016.

The Millrose Games have had some fine vaulting, and Ekaterina Stefanidi showed the crowd in the Armory some air when she cleared 4.90 meters! Her clearance, the 4th best in indoor history, was tied that night by US vaulter Demi Payne (yes, Billy Payne's daughter). At the World Indoor championships, Ekaterina battled Jenn Suhr, Sandi Morris and took third to Suhr's gold, and Morris's silver.

At the 2016 European Champs in Amsterdam, cleared 4.81m to take her first gold in a senior championships. She had improved three times outdoors in 2016, from 4.73m, 4.75m and 4.77m, before her fourth improvement out doors with her 4.81 meters. A new found confidence, in her focus, her technique and her competitive metal, showed.

In Rio de Janiero, in tough conditions, Ekaterina became the Olympic champion, battled Sandi Morris, who both cleared 4.85m for the gold, with Morris taking the silver. Eliza McCartney of New Zealand took the bronze with 4.80m NR.

In 2017, Ekaterina Stefanidi made it gold medals three and four. In March, she took the gold in Belgrade, Serbia at the 2017 European Indoor Championships. In August, Stefanidi took gold in the World Championships with Sandi Morris again taking the silver. Most of 2017 were battles between Stefanidi and Morris, with Stefanidi taking the wins, on many occassions.

Stefanidi_EkateriniPort1e-Monaco17.jpgIs Ekaterina considering another event? Nope! Just goofing off in Monte Carlo for the IAAF Gala! photo by PhotoRun.net

Ekaterina Stefanidi and Sandi Morris will compete at the Millrose Games on February 3. Both will be battling in Birmingham for the World Indoor titles. With the competition between Stefanidi and Morris, one can count on a great competition. And with the world nature of the women's pole vault, do not be surprised if another new vault star shows up to challenge the dynamic duo.

My guess? Ekaterina Stefanidi will relish the competition.

This Greek super star, who resides in Ohio with her coach husband Mitchell Krier (former vaulter, they married in 2015).

Just remember to watch the women's pole vault in Birmingham. It will be worth the ticket price!

Stefanidi_Ekaterini-Millrose17.jpgEkaterina Stefanidi, photo by PhotoRun.net

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