Stanford grad Stefanidi earns gold in the pole vault


Stanford graduate Katerina Stefanidi became the first Cardinal woman to win an Olympic track and field gold medal in an individual event, pulling off the feat Friday in the pole vault.

Stefanidi, representing Greece, was locked in a duel with Sandi Morris of the United States, with both clearing 15-11 (4.85 meters) on their second attempt. Neither succeeded at the next height, of 16-0 3/4 (4.90m), but a Morris miss at 15-5 (4.70m) was the difference.

Stefanidi was perfect through that height, and thereafter they were equal. The drama was sustained to the final jump, when Morris barely grazed the bar, causing a delayed fall that resulted in Stefanidi's victory.

Stefanidi joins Chryste Gaines, winner in the 1996 4x100 relay, as the only Stanford women to win gold medals.

She is the ninth gold medalist in Stanford history. However, no Stanford athlete had won a track and field gold since decathlete Bill Toomey, who had been a Stanford graduate student, won in 1968.

The last time an individual who had attended Stanford as an undergraduate won gold was in 1952, when the great Bob Mathias captured the second of two Olympic decathlon championships.

Stefanidi, class of 2012, was a two-time NCAA champion, five-time conference champion, and six-time All-America at Stanford. She captured NCAA indoor and outdoor titles in 2012 and won three consecutive conference titles, from 2010-12. She continues to hold school records indoors and outdoors.

This has been a golden season for Stefanidi, who earlier won the European championship and was third at the World Indoor Championships, trailing only winner Jenn Suhr and Morris. She had never before made the final at an Olympics or World Championships.

Stefanidi opened at 15-1 (4.60m) and was perfect through two jumps. But a first-try miss at 15-9 (4.80m) put New Zealand's Eliza McCartney in control when the teenager tied a national record on her first try at that height and was perfect to that point.

Suhr, who had been battling illness, and reigning world champion Yarisley Silva of Cuba, went out at 15-5.

Stefanidi was the first to clear 15-11, with Morris matching that effort. McCartney fell out of the competition at that height, and claimed bronze. However, that merely set the stage for Stefanidi's coronation.

Women's golf

Switzerland's Albane Valenzuela, who will be a freshman at Stanford this fall, shot a 1-over 72 under windy conditions in the third round of the Olympic tournament Friday.

One of three amateurs in the field of 60 players, she enters Saturday's final round tied for 20th.

— Palo Alto Online Sports/Stanford Athletics

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