(photo credit: REUTERS)
A fourth-place finish in the high jump final at the European indoor athletics
championships is a special achievement.
However, what makes Danielle
Frenkel’s recent accomplishment all the more impressive is the remarkable
progress she has shown in such a short period.
Just four years ago, the
then 19- year-old was still pursuing her dream of becoming a professional dancer
after spending years with the Bat Dor Dance Company.
The turning point in
Frenkel’s sporting life arrived two months into her army service as a guide at
Israeli high jump coach Anatoly Shafran had tried to lure
Frenkel into an athletics career after seeing her jump in a high school
competition at the young age of 14.
But despite his initial failure, he
remained in touch with Danielle and managed to convince her to give sports a
serious shot after inviting her to compete in the Israel national
Frenkel and Shafran began a methodical program aimed at
turning the young talent into a world class jumper and success arrived quicker
than anyone had predicted.
After clearing just 1.69 meters in 2007,
Frenkel improved her personal best by six centimeters in each of the next two
years, jumping 1.81m in 2009.
However, all the hard work with Shafran
really began to pay dividends last year, with Frenkel improving her personal
best by a massive 11 centimeters in 2010, setting the outdoor Israeli record at
1.92m in Barcelona last July to become the first Israeli woman to reach a final
at the European Athletics Championships.
Frenkel, who ended that final in
the 12th and last position, proved once more this past Saturday that she has a
taste for the big stage.
After soaring to an Israeli indoor record of
1.94m on her way to the final of the European indoor athletics championships in
Paris, Frenkel more than justified her presence.
In complete contrast to
here freezing in last year’s continental final, Frenkel almost left France with
Ultimately, she just missed out on clearing 1.96m, which would
have given her a place on the podium in just her second major
“I learned from the pressure I felt last year and I was much
better prepared for this final,” Frenkel said after the championships. “I
decided that I wouldn’t allow what unfolded in Barcelona to happen
Frenkel’s fourth-place finish should be tempered slightly by the
fact that noted stars Blanka Vlasic and Ariane Friedrich were among a host of
absentees for the championships in Paris.
But the Israeli “gravity
bender” – a fast-spreading moniker of Frenkel’s – has got far loftier goals and
has every intention of one day getting the better of the world’s best.
know I still have a lot to improve and that spurs me on,” Frenkel has said. “I
know I have yet to reach my peak. I’m not thinking of the 2012 Olympics just
yet. My next target is this summer’s World Championships.”
look like a fragile ballerina, but anyone who has seen her work out in the
weight lifting room knows that is far from the truth.
“She has incredible
strength and she needs to use this in her jumping,” Shafran said before the
indoor championships. “At her current rate of progression and with the power she
has in her body I have no doubt that she can clear 2.00m. She just needs to
polish her technique and the mental side of jumping.”
Frenkel now turns
her attention to the outdoor season and the World Championships in Daegu, South
Korea at the end of August.
“I’m entering the summer season left with a
taste for more,” Frenkel said. “My coach and I are always looking for ways to
improve and my progress over the past year is extraordinary. I’ve improved my
technique and strength and it shows in competition.”
Frenkel will also
get her first chance to qualify for the London Olympics this summer.
need to jump 1.95m to meet the Olympic criteria,” she said. “I know I am capable
of more than I have achieved so far and that gives me the confidence that I will
reach London. I’m pleased with my recent results and I’m looking forward to
resuming training because I know that good things come to those with
At the moment, Frenkel is just another good European high
However, it is her boundless potential which excites Israeli
The dire situation of Israeli athletics means that she’s
already its brightest star.
But if she can continue at her current rate
of progress, there truly is no limit as to what she can