MOSCOW: She has been hailed as the queen of athletics and Russias newest sweetheart, but life does not get any easier for Olympic pole vault champion and world record holder Yelena Isinbayeva.
After adding the world indoor title to an already glittering medal collection, the 23-year-old Volgograd native was probably expecting to receive new accolades.
Instead, she faced a barrage of questions from demanding local press, more interested in a possible tie-up with Chelsea billionaire owner Roman Abramovichs oil company than her sporting triumphs.
To her credit, she took the media blitz in her stride.
Only once Isinbayeva lost her cool when a reporter asked her if she had spoken to former coach Yevgeny Trofimov.
No questions about Trofimov, she cut the reporter off.
She dropped a bombshell last November, dumping her long-time mentor and hiring Vitaly Petrov, the former coach of pole vault great Sergei Bubka.
Trofimov was spotted in the stands of the Olympic sports complex over the weekend openly cheering for Isinbayevas main rival Svetlana Feofanova.
The 2003 world champion and Olympic silver medallist won bronze in Moscow her first international competition following an 18-month absence through a back injury.
Another journalist wanted to know about Isinbayevas icy relationship with her fellow Russian. The two, sitting side-by-side, hardly looked at each other during a news conference.
You see, were not fighting with each other, Isinbayeva said sarcastically, while Feofanova just smiled. Were not friends but we dont have to be enemies either.
Isinbayeva, who has been virtually unbeaten for the past three years and has set world records almost at will, was also asked about her apparent slump in form after failing to break her own indoor mark in Moscow.
Well, Im not a machine, Im human after all. But Ill soon prove that Im capable of breaking records again, she said.
The Russian also had to deny media reports she was offered US$6mil to move to Italy and compete for that country.
No, never. I would never betray Russia, not even for US$100mil, she insisted.
I may not stay in Russia all the time but Im still based in Volgograd and I dont have plans to move abroad permanently, at least for now, said Isinbayeva.
In reference to Abramovich, she said: There was an approach from his oil company Sibneft for me to represent their brand worldwide but it never materialised. Too bad, it would have been nice to work with him. Reuters