MARIYA LASITSKENE became the first high jumper in WC history—man or woman—to win 3 times when she added the Doha gold to those she had captured in Beijing and London. She is not invincible but loses vary rarely, although perhaps a slight element of doubt about her role as overwhelming favorite had crept in after her 3rd in the U.S./Europe dual in Minsk three weeks ago while sporting a knee bandage. However, the 26-year-old Russian was back to her best with the serious money and a gold medal on the line and never gave the rest of a classy field a chance, with a flawless record up to and including her winning height of 6-8¼ (2.04).
The battle for the medals started in earnest at 6-6¾ (2.00) with 6 still in contention. Four cleared: Lasitskene and U.S. champ Vashti Cunningham on their first attempts (the latter after equaling her PR giving the thumbs-up to her famous father/coach Randall Cunningham watching from the stands); Ukraine’s ’17 silver medalist Yuliya Levchenko and her 18-year-old compatriot Yaroslava Mahuchikh (equaling her PR) on third, while Poland’s former World Indoor gold medalist Kamila Lićwinko and Belarus’ reigning World Junior (U20) champ Karyna Demidik departed.
With the bar at 6-7½ (2.02), Lasitskene went over again first time, just clipping the bar with her heels but not enough to dislodge it. With Levchenko and Cunningham having failed, Mahuchikh, jumping last of the quartet, then executed a wondrous effort with her first attempt to move up into the silver position. She not only took possession of the World U20 Record, but also put herself in contention to be the youngest ever female WC field event medalist. That last accolade was confirmed a few minutes later as Cunningham and Levchenko each failed twice more, disappointment etched over their faces, leaving the former with the bronze and the latter out of the medals on this occasion.
With the bar being elevated another 2cm, Lasitskene quickly made her eighth straight height to continue on her road to gold, her jump at 6-8¼ (2.04) being much better than her previous effort and with daylight to spare, but her young rival wasn’t psyched out and after two close attempts—with many onlookers wondering about her strategy when she could have passed after her first failure with nothing to lose—she added to her World U20 Record with a huge clearance despite just nudging the bar.
Mahuchikh (see sidebar) then decided that enough was enough and withdrew, leaving the stage to Lasitskene, who took, by her own admission, three lackluster attempts at a Russian Record 6-9¾ (2.08), just a centimeter below the World Record. She then celebrated in appropriate fashion by waving three fingers in the air to make sure everyone got the message.
It’s worth remembering it could have been four global titles in a row if she had been allowed to compete in Rio by the IAAF, something which still rankles bitterly with the outspoken opponent of the Russian sporting authorities. By contrast, Lasitskene doesn’t usually have much to say after her competitions although this time there were a few smiles for her fans and she did reflect on the fact that although she can make jumping big heights look alarmingly easy, appearances can be deceiving, commenting, “I can say today I really struggled for every jump.”
American Inika McPherson didn’t move on from a Q-round which also claimed several other high-ranking jumpers, not least Ukraine’s Iryna Herashchenko, who has cleared 6-6¼ (1.99) this year and Sweden’s Erika Kinsey. Third American Ty Butts, who only got into the meet as a field-filler, also deserves a shout-out. She equaled her PR of 6-3½ (1.92) to advance to the final and then improved that when she went 6-4 (1.93) in the final to take 8th.
WC WOMEN’S HIGH JUMP RESULTS
(September 30) (temperature 81F/27C; humidity 73%
1. Mariya Lasitskene (Rus) 6-8¼ (2.04);
2. Yaroslava Mahuchikh (Ukr) 6-8¼ (2.04) WJR (old WJR 6-7½/2.02 Mahuchikh in series) (also 6-7½/2.02 WJR [old WJR 6-7/2.01 Olga Turchak [SU] ’86 & Heike Balck [EG] ’89) (also 6-6¾/2.00 =PR [x, =3 WJ] & 6-6/1.98 [x, =10 WJ]);
3. Vashti Cunningham (US) 6-6¾ (2.00) =PR (=6, x A);
4. Yuliya Levchenko (Ukr) 6-6¾ (2.00);
5. Kamila Lićwinko (Pol) 6-6 (1.98);
6. Karyna Demidik (Blr) 6-5 (1.96);
7. Ana Šimić (Cro) 6-4 (1.93);
8. Ty Butts (US) 6-4 (1.93) PR;
9. Imke Onnen (Ger) 6-2¼ (1.89);
10. Mirela Demireva (Bul) 6-2¼ (1.89);
11. Claire Orcel (Bel) 6-2¼ (1.89);
12. Svetlana Radzivil (Uzb) 6-2¼ (1.89).
(September 27; auto-qualifier 6-4¼/1.94)
Qualifiers: Butts, Levchenko, Orcel & Šimić cleared 6-3½/1.92 (Butts =PR), all others 6-4¼/1.94)
[6-3½/1.92]—Levern Spencer (StL), Alessia Trost (Ita);
[6-2¼/1.89]—Maruša Černjul (Slo), Nicola McDermott (Aus), Elena Vallortigara (Ita) 6-2¼ (1.89);
[6-¾/1.85]—Iryna Herashchenko (Ukr), Erika Kinsey (Swe), Morgan Lake (GB), Inika McPherson (US), María Fernanda Murillo (Col), Airinė Palšytė (Lit), Daniela Stanciu (Rom), Marija Vuković (MNE);
[5-10¾/1.80]—Nadezhda Dusanova (Uzb), Christina Honsel (Ger), Ella Junnila (Fin);
[5-7/1.70]—Alysha Burnett (Aus), Erika Seyama (Swa).