Pole vaulter thought she would be watching the Olympics from the stands until a late call-up for the Brazil team
By qualifying for the pole vault competition at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, Brazil’s Joana Costa has massively exceeded her expectations. Less than a month ago, the 35-year-old was preparing to attend the Games as a volunteer and a spectator.
Brazil has a pole vault medal contender in 2011 world champion Fabiana Murer, and Costa expected to split her time at the Rio 2016 Games between cheering on her compatriot and volunteering.
Now, after vaulting the qualifying standard of 4.50m at the Brazilian championships on 3 July, Costa has earned her first ever call-up to the Olympic Games – a late one in terms of both the season and her career.
“I have dreamed all of my life of going to the Olympics,” she said. “But I was expecting to be watching here and I bought tickets for the men’s and women’s qualifying events in the pole vault. I had been hoping for gymnastics tickets too but couldn’t get them.
“Then I qualified. My family are going to use some of the tickets now to watch me. The rest are going to re-sale. I am so happy.”
Costa, like many pole vaulters, used to compete in gymnastics. Her first memories of the Olympic Games are of watching recordings of Romania’s Nadia Comaneci become the first gymnast to score a perfect 10 at the Montreal 1976 Games.
“I used it as a dream,” Costa said. “I thought: ‘one day, if I work hard, I can go to the Games.’ I did not know which sport but I always admired Olympians.”
Costa just failed to make the qualifying height of 4.45m for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games and is determined to make up for lost time, not make up the numbers, in Rio.
“I think I can improve my results,” Costa said from her training base in Sao Paulo. “I want to enjoy the competition but I really believe I can make it through to the final.”
Women’s pole vault qualification takes place on 16 August at the Olympic Stadium and the final on 19 August.