IN A PURELY SUBJECTIVE poll of the most popular winners in Budapest, the likes of Noah Lyles and Femke Bol obviously come to mind but few would also begrudge high jumper Yaroslava Mahuchikh that status.
Not least because there was a huge amount of popular sympathy for the Ukrainian cause among the estimated 30,000 spectators in the National Athletics Centre — and Hungary is home to around 55,000 Ukrainian refugees from the war — but also because of the long road Mahuchikh has taken to get to the top of the global podium outdoors.
Finally, Mahuchikh clinched the big one when she was the only women to go over 6-7 (2.01) before three unsuccessful attempts at an NR 6-9½ (2.07).
“I am so proud to win this gold for my country,” she said. “High jumpers have three attempts at every height, and I had my third attempt at a World Championships tonight. I made it incredibly well. Silvers from Doha and Eugene definitely were not enough for me.
“I have been one of the best woman high jumpers over the last few years and I badly wanted to become the best in the world officially. Before every single one of my jumps tonight I said to myself that I have to win gold. Only gold.
“I had to win this gold for my country and all Ukrainian people who are still fighting for peace in Ukraine and for our independence. Of course, I had some technical mistakes, but generally I am satisfied with my performance. I did not think that 2.01 will be enough to win in Budapest. Physically and mentally, I was prepared to jump 2.05 [6-8¾] and higher.”
To be honest, as Mahuchikh later suggested, the competition itself was slightly underwhelming for this level. Surprisingly, not one of the 15 women in the final PRed.
Eight attempted 6-5½ (1.97) and four got over. Mahuchikh and Australia’s Olympic silver medalist Nicola Olyslagers cleared on their first attempts while the latter’s compatriot and ’22 WC winner Eleanor Patterson and Great Britain’s Morgan Lake took the height with their third efforts.
With the bar at 6-6½ (1.99) and jumping first, Patterson went well clear to exert pressure on the others, but Mahuchikh responded and produced a sparing clearance moments later while Olyslagers made this height with her second try.
At the next height of 6-7 (2.01), only Mahuchikh was successful on her second attempt and clinched the erstwhile elusive gold.
The only U.S. entrant, Vashti Cunningham, was rated No. 4 on the T&FN Formchart and expected to challenge for a medal but couldn’t go higher than 6-2¾ (1.90) and finished a disappointing 11th.
“This is definitely not what I have expected from the final. I feel right now one of my tests is being able to remain calm, and beyond track & field I am really loved and chosen,” lamented Cunningham.
The 6-time U-S champion and ’16 World Indoor winner added, “I learned tonight I need to get my marks together. I was changing them from qualifications to the final. It has not been consistent. I need to fix it. In general, there are a lot of things that needed to be worked on.”
WOMEN’S HIGH JUMP RESULTS
FINAL (August 27)
1. Yaroslava Mahuchikh (Ukr) 6-7 (2.01);
2. Eleanor Patterson (Aus) 6-6¼ (1.99);
3. Nicola Olyslagers (Aus) 6-6¼ (1.99);
4. Morgan Lake (GB) 6-5½ (1.97) =PR;
=5. Lamara Distin (Jam) 6-4¼ (1.94);
=5. Iryna Gerashchenko (Ukr) 6-4¼ (1.94);
7. Angelina Topić (Ser) 6-4¼ (1.94);
8. Christina Honsel (Ger) 6-4¼ (1.94) PR;
=9. Lia Apostolovski (Slo) 6-2¾ (1.90);
=9. Nadezhda Dubovitskaya (Kaz) 6-2¾ (1.90);
11. Vashti Cunningham (US) 6-2¾ (1.90);
12. Nawal Meniker (Fra) 6-2¾ (1.90);
=13. Ella Junnila (Fin) 6-2¾ (1.90);
=13. Elena Kulichenko (Cyp) 6-2¾ (1.90);
15. Solene Gicquel (Fra) 6-¾ (1.85).
QUALIFYING (August 25)
Qualifiers: [6-3½/1.92]—Mahuchikh, Patterson, Distin, Lake, Cunningham, Olyslagers, Topić, Kulichenko; [6-2¼/1.89]—Herashchenko, Apostolovski, Dubovitskaya, Meniker, Junnila, Honsel, Gicquel;
Non-Qualifiers: [6-2¼/1.89]— Tatiána Goúsin (Gre), Yuliya Levchenko (Ukr), Merel Maes (Bel), Elisabeth Pihela (Est);
[6-¾/1.85]—Yuliya Chumachenko (Ukr), Johanna Göring (Ger), Michaela Hrubá (CzR), Valdiléia Martins (Bra), Kristina Ovchinnikova (Kaz), Airinė Palšytė (Lit), Daniela Stanciu (Rom), Marija Vuković (Mont), Kimberly Williamson (Jam);
[5-10¾/1.80]— Panayióta Dósi (Gre), Fédra Fekete (Hun), Yelizaveta Matveyeva (Kaz), Safina Sadullayeva (Uzb), Erin Shaw (Aus), Heta Tuuri (Fin).