Frenkel’s star continues to rise, one centimeter at a time

Sinai Says: Still A relative newcomer to her discipline, Danielle Frenkel should remain on the local sports radar for much of the next decade.

Frenkel 311 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Frenkel 311
(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 Yad Vashem.
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 championships.
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 a medal.
Ultimately, she just missed out on clearing 1.96m, which would have given her a place on the podium in just her second major competition.
“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 again.”
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.
“I 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.”
Frenkel may 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.
“I 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 patience.”
At the moment, Frenkel is just another good European high jumper.
However, it is her boundless potential which excites Israeli sports fans.
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 achieve.
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