TATIANA GRIGORIEVA (8 Oct 1975 -
Tatiana Grigorieva was born in St Petersburg, Russia and her early athletic career was as a 400 metres hurdler.
In 1997 she made a major life decision - to migrate to Australia with her then pole vaulter husband Viktor Chistiakov, settling in Adelaide. Along with them came Dmitri Markov with his wife Vala and son Oleg and their coach Alex Parnov and his family.
Tatiana had no previous personal involvement in the pole vault until she arrived in Australia but made an auspicious start clearing 2.90m in Adelaide in February 1997. By December she had quickly raised her best to 3.90m.
Rapid improvement continued into 1998 breaking through the four metre barrier with a 4.10m clearance in Perth. She bettered 4.30m in February and then at the Nationals in Melbourne took the silver at 4.15m.
There was a tour of Europe in 1998 placing in the top three in most competitions - with a best of 4.22m in Sheffield in the United Kingdom. In February 1999 she cleared 4.45m in Hamilton, New Zealand and then won a first national title in Melbourne with 4.25m. There was also a national bronze medal over 100 yards.
Having obtained Australian citizenship, Tatiana was now eligible to represent her adopted home in major international competitions. She was first selected for the World Indoors in Maebashi where she finished ninth at 4.20m.
Then came the World Championships in Seville – which provide to be not just a further opportunity, but a breakthrough. Tatiana excelled, finishing with the bronze at an impressive 4.45m. It was the first example of what became a trademark – an ability to produce her best when it counted most. In earlier lead up competitions, she had raised her personal best to 4.50m in Salamanca, Spain.
Tatiana could start the Olympic year with confidence but also with much expectation as the Games were not only on home soil in Sydney but also marked the debut of the women’s pole vault at the Olympics. By March she was back up to 4.30m.
Her European tour was consistent but nothing exceptional with some 4.30m results. But back home and come September there was something very special in the air.
In the qualifying round of the Olympics, Tatiana’s work was methodical, clearing 4.15m, 4.25m and 4.30m with her first attempt at each. With just 13 remaining it was decided not to continue to the remaining heights.
There was a full day off before the final was held on what became known in Australian sporting history as Magic Monday. It was the night on which Cathy Freeman won gold at 400 metres but was made all the more memorable by Tatiana’s brilliant and perhaps more unexpected silver.
After a glitch which saw her miss her first attempt at the opening bar of 4.15m, Tatiana cleared the next four heights to 4.45m without further mishap. When she mastered 4.50m at the second try, only five athletes remained. Tatiana was a precarious third as world champion and record holder Stacy Dragila (USA) having taken all three attempts to get the height, was only fourth.
But the Australian got the next bar - a personal best of 4.55m at her first try. Flosadottir (Iceland), Bartova (Czech Republic) and Humbert (Germany) all went out. Dragila, despite taking two attempts, remained in the fight.
A medal assured for each the two women raised the bar to 4.60m. This time it was Dragila over the first time, with Tatiana missing. With nothing then to lose she passed but when both missed their attempts at 4.65m it was a stunning silver for Tatiana.
The following year she competed in her second world championship - this time in Edmonton, Canada and equalled her personal best of 4.55m. Unfortunately she lost the bronze on countback to Poland’s Monika Pyrek with Dragila again winning.
Tatiana was selected for her first Commonwealth Games in 2002 at Manchester and this time the elusive gold was hers as she led a sweep of medals for Australia, clearing 4.35m ahead of Kym Howe and Bridgid Isworth.
Two months later she went to Madrid to represent Oceania in the World Cup but came away without a result. The next two years were also lean, missing the Paris World Championships and the Athens Olympics.
Moving to Queensland provided new motivation and in 2005 she was again vaulting well. In good form going into the Helsinki World Championships after clearing 4.47m in London, she got 4.40m in the qualifying round to make the final. But there she could only clear 4.00m and finished 12th.
In 2006 she won her fourth national title with 4.45m and soon after in front of a packed house at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, the by then crowd favourite Tatiana cleared 4.35m to finish with Commonwealth Games silver behind teammate Howe who took gold with 4.62m.
After the Games Tatiana made her final overseas tour - a great success culminating with a second place and personal best of 4.58m in Daegu, Korea to end a stellar career.
Paul Jenes OAM
Athletics Australia Statistician
Acknowledgements: Mark Butler, IAAF Athletics Statistics Book Olympic Games; IAAF Statistics Book, Moscow 2013; Paul Jenes, Fields of Green, Lanes of Gold; Paul Jenes, Peter Hamilton, Fletcher McEwen & David Tarbotton - Australian Athletic Results; Bob Phillips, Honour of Empire, Glory of Sport; Rob Whittingham, Paul Jenes & Stan Greenberg, Athletics at the Commonwealth Games