Russian athlete Sidorova wins pole vault in dramatic finale

Athletics - World Athletics Championships - Doha 2019 - Women's Pole Vault Final - Khalifa International Stadium, Doha, Qatar - September 29, 2019 Neutral athlete Anzhelika Sidorova clears the bar to win gold REUTERS/Dylan Martinez

DOHA (Reuters) - Russian athlete Anzhelika Sidorova, competing as a neutral because of her country's ban from athletics, soared to the women's world pole vault title with the best leap of the year on Sunday.

Sidorova pipped Sandi Morris by vaulting 4.95 metres with her third and final attempt, leaving the American with a silver medal for her third successive major championship after clearing 4.90.

Greek Ekaterini Stefanidi, the title-holder and Olympic champion, finished with the bronze.

The drama was played out in front of rows of empty seats as the third day of the competition attracted another pitifully small crowd to the air-conditioned Khalifa stadium.

Sidorova, wearing a neutral blue strip, was the first athlete from Russia to win a gold at the competition in Doha and the ban means her country's national anthem will not be played or the flag flown at the medal ceremony.

Russia's athletics federation RUSAF was suspended by the IAAF in November 2015 after a report commissioned by WADA found evidence of widespread doping in the sport. The ban has been extended several times since, most recently last Monday.

The contest quickly developed into a straight battle between Sidorova and Morris who both cleared the first five heights at their first attempt.

Both then failed their first two attempts at 4.95 metres and Morris also missed at the third, just brushing the bar, before Sidorova cleared it to clinch victory.

Morris, who arguably had the psychological advantage of vaulting first, also won silver at the last world championship and the Rio Olympics. Stefanidi was never quite at the same level, needing two attempts to clear 4.80 and 4.85.

(Writing by Brian Homewood; Editing by Christian Radnedge)

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