Isinbayeva sets 2013 retirement; signs new deal

Updated: March 2, 2009, 6:33 AM ET
Associated Press

BEIJING -- Yelena Isinbayeva, the two-time Olympic pole vault champion and world record-holder, plans to compete for five more years before retiring in 2013.

The Russian spelled out her intentions Monday after signing a long-term, multimillion-dollar sponsorship deal with Chinese sportswear manufacturer Li Ning. Terms were not disclosed, but her agent Daniel Wessfeldt said it was worth "a couple of million" a year.

"I will be old then," the 26-year-old Isinbayeva said of 2013.

She said she chose 2013 because it is the year Moscow will hold the world athletics championships. She said she expects to compete at this summer's world championships in Berlin and the 2012 London Olympics.

Isinbayeva has broken the world indoor and outdoor pole vault record 26 times. She set the outdoor mark of 16 feet, 5 inches at last year's Beijing Olympics. Last month, she raised the indoor mark to 16 feet, 4 inches at a meet in Donetsk, Ukraine.

Isinbayeva said she expects to push the record much higher in the five years leading up to her retirement.

"I think it's possible to jump 5.20 (meters) and even 5.30. It all depends on my health, my personal condition," she said. "Of course, I can't know if I will achieve it or not."

Isinbayeva signed with Li Ning after her contract with Adidas expired at the end of 2008. Wessfeldt said Li Ning pursued her aggressively and hopes to capitalize on her popularity in Asia.

"It was not only the money issue, it was more that you feel you have so much behind you -- enthusiasm, a team for developing new shoes and being involved in the process," he said. "And there is no reason to change if it is not a better deal on the ground as well."

Wessfeldt said the deal with the Chinese company also opened the door for contracts with other China-based companies.

"This would not happen in Germany (with Adidas) or in the States if it was Nike," he said.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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