By Nick Mulvenney
LONDON (Reuters) - Emotional Russian Anna Chicherova banished the pain of an injury-marred season to soar to gold in the women's high jump at the London Olympics on Saturday.
Sixth in Athens and a bronze medalist in Beijing, the 30-year-old world champion cleared the first five heights at the first time of asking before becoming the only woman to get over the bar at 2.05 meters on her second attempt.
Chicherova has suffered a rash of injuries since winning the world title in Daegu last year, including a back problem she sustained when the weights fell off the bar when she was lifting.
"I'm extremely happy, it is my dream," she told reporters. "I cannot say it was easy for the last two months. I had the problem with my back in July and I knew didn't have room for any mistakes tonight.
"I know the price of this medal and I know I deserve it," she added, fighting back tears.
"When I got to the high jump area today, I told myself 'You do not have the right not to win this, because of all the people who have helped and supported you'."
Brigetta Barrett of the United States, with the London crowd roaring her on, jumped a personal best 2.03 meters on her second attempt to clinch silver.
"I could not do anything, but to do my best," the 6ft (1.83m)-tall Barrett said, before giving a rendition of the religious song she had sung on her lap of honor.
"The crowd was phenomenal. I had to cover my ears a couple of times. I could not think."
Chicherova also praised the London crowd.
"They compete with you," she said. "It is such a wave of emotion. I would like to express my thanks to all the fans in London, who supported all the athletes not just the British ones."
Chicherova's compatriot Svetlana Shkolina won bronze after needing three jumps to match the American at 2.03, also a personal best height.
"I have worked really hard over the last four years," said Shkolina, who finished eighth at the Beijing Games. "To do a personal best in the Olympic Games is something which is very special to me."
Croatia's former world champion and Beijing silver medalist Blanka Vlasic missed the Games after having surgery on her ankle and heel this year. Defending champion Tia Hellebaut of Belgium failed all three attempts at two meters.
(Editing by Ed Osmond)
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