(CNN) -- There are few sports that are so dominated by a single person like the way the women's pole vault is ruled by 26-year Russian Yelena Isinbayeva.
Eyes on the prize: Yelena Isinbayeva has often complained about a lack of real competition in her event.
Every time the world and Olympic champion competes it is expected that she will spring to new heights and push women's pole-vaulting to new levels.
She has broken the world record 16 times, almost equaling the feat of the great Sergey Bubka, who broke the men's outdoor pole vault record 17 times between 1984 and 1994.
Since jumping to her first world record in 2003 and becoming the first woman to jump over 5-meters in 2005 she as also become something of a glamorous sporting celebrity.
After setting five new world records in 2005, it took almost three years for her to set a new mark of 5.04m in July 2008, a fallow period that made her pursuit of world records a personal matter.
After setting her world record mark in July this year at a competition in Monte Carlo, she told press: "I wanted to improve my personal best and that's what I did. I see this world record as a personal one."
A driven and focused competitor, she has also become famous for her coolness under pressure.
Before her latest world record jump she was driving around the track in the back of a vintage car with sprinter Asafa Powell, while her fellow competitors had already started the competition.
Not shy of media and publicity, her sporting achievements, athleticism and looks have made her a pin-up for women's athletics and attracted a number of big-name sponsors.
While her achievements can be allied to that of Bubka it has been noted that her media- and sponsor-friendly attitude makes her more akin to compatriot Maria Sharapova.
Her celebrity status is a world away from her modest background. Born in Volgograd in 1982 it was only until a couple of years ago that she lived with her parents and younger sister in the city of her birth, before moving to Monte Carlo.
She trained first of all as a gymnast until the age of 15 when her coach decided she was too tall. Commentators and fellow competitors have noted that her gymnastic training has helped give her an extra edge in the event.
After defending her title in Beijing, her place in the sporting pantheon of great female athletes seems secure.
While emulating Bubka, Isinbayeva has said before that closing the gap between the heights the men and women can jump is another of her personal challenges, and with her own talent and the help of Bubka's former coach she may go a long way towards achieving that.
|Most Viewed||Most Emailed||Top Searches|