Emma George retires

Emma George has announced her retirement. In 1995, the women's pole vault was a fledgling event and George was a novice participant.

On November 30, at an A-grade interclub meeting at Melbourne's Olympic Park, she slipped over a bar set at 4.25 metres to break the world record held by a Chinese vaulter.

Athletics Australia media officer Damian Booth almost broke his ankle leaping the fence to interview George. He rang from the car park to ensure the news of the record went on to the IAAF website.

George said she had finally concluded that if she tried to push on to Athens 2004, there were two realities.

First, she would not be able to attempt the sort of heights that might be required to win a medal; second, she might injure her back so severely that it might be difficult to run, much less vault. "It's not a decision I wanted to make," George said. "If I had my choice, I would have tried to get to Athens. Realistically, with my back, I knew after two bouts of surgery I had to take care of that."

George won the Commonwealth Games gold medal in 1998 and set her last world record in February 1999, when she cleared 4.60 metres in Sydney. Her Olympic chances were blighted by stress fractures in both feet. Then came the two bouts of back surgery.

Dragila went on to win the gold medal, Tatiana Grigorieva taking the silver for Australia.

George regrets she will not have further chance at Olympic gold, but says she is satisfied to have been a pioneer in the event.

"My dream was for the event to get international recognition, and it did," she said. "I've loved being involved and watching the event emerge. It's been an amazing experience."