AS THE OLYMPIC gold medalist and ’16 World Indoor winner — as well as 2-time defending Euro champion — Gianmarco Tamberi had an impressive list of honors to his name, but the Italian crowd-pleaser had yet to capture WC gold prior to Budapest.
All that changed in the Hungarian capital as he put to an end the dreams of his Qatari friend and perennial rival Mutaz Barshim of extending his WC winning streak to 4.
The competition started in earnest when the bar moved up to 7-7¾ (2.33) with 7 still in the competition — although this group didn’t include Ukraine’s ’22 bronze medalist Andrii Protsenko, who couldn’t go higher than 7-4½ (2.25) and finished 11th.
U.S. star JuVaughn Harrison, Barshim, Tamberi and Cuba’s Luis Zayas all cleared 7-7¾ (2.33) at the first time of asking, Germany’s Tobias Potye managed it on his second try while Korea’s Oregon22 silver medalist Sang-hyeok Woo and American Shelby McEwen had failures and passed upwards with the bar rising to 7-8¾ (2.36).
However, despite the plethora of talent and superb conditions for high jumping, Tamberi — who was back sporting the half-beard that was his trademark look earlier in his career, including at that ’16 Indoor Worlds in Portland — was then the only one to go clear, and cleared well, with his first attempt at the new height.
Cue the sound of massive cheers around the stadium led by a large group of boisterous Italian fans close to the high jump apron.
Harrison — who had been flawless at previous heights — produced a big jump with daylight between himself and the bar to go over with his second attempt and equal his PR, but no one else could get over and the field was down to 2.
Barshim got the bronze on the countback rules for his fourth successive podium, and fifth overall after silver in ’13, while McEwen was 7th after needing 3 tries to clear 7-6 (2.29).
At 7-9¾ (2.38), neither of the remaining protagonists were particularly close. Tamberi, jumping after Harrison, passed his last attempt after being confirmed as the champion, then did a run-through at 7-10½ (2.40).
“I just went for it. I wanted to write history by winning gold medals at all the major competitions,” Tamberi said. “The feeling is amazing. It is worth all the sacrifices over the years. After the qualifications I was a little scared because I did not feel as good as I wanted, but I knew I always change in the final.”
After having so much expected of him, especially two years ago in Tokyo as a dual HJ and LJ competitor at the Olympics, Harrison was clearly enjoying his moment in the spotlight with the pressure off.
The LSU alum reflected: “I think this was the best year of my career. I was consistent in every competition. After qualification I was about to have fun in the final and enjoy the jumps. It is fantastic that I beat one of the Olympic winners and I equaled the other. This is what I came for. This result gives me a great confidence for the Olympic Games in Paris.”
The third of the U.S. HJ trio, Vernon Turner, departed in the Q-round after being unable to go higher than 7-¼ (2.14).
Other notable casualties that failed to progress to the final included three of the men on our formchart — New Zealand’s ‘22 WIC bronze medalist Hamish Kerr, Belgium’s Thomas Carmoy and Australia’s Joel Baden, who jumped 7-7¾ (2.33) earlier this year — as well as Bahamas’ 39-year-old ‘07 WC winner Donald Thomas.
MEN’S HIGH JUMP RESULTS
FINAL (August 22)
1. Gianmarco Tamberi (Ita) 7-8¾ (2.36) (=out WL);
2. JuVaughn Harrison (US) 7-8¾ (2.36) =PR (AL, =out WL) (=8, x A);
3. Mutaz Barshim (Qat) 7-7¾ (2.33);
4. Luis Zayas (Cub) 7-7¾ (2.33) out PR;
5. Tobias Potye (Ger) 7-7¾ (2.33);
6. Sang-hyeok Woo (SK) 7-6 (2.29);
7. Shelby McEwen (US) 7-6 (2.29);
=8. Ryoichi Akamatsu (Jpn) 7-4½ (2.25);
=8. Brandon Starc (Aus) 7-4½ (2.25);
10. Norbert Kobielski (Pol) 7-4½ (2.25);
11. Andrii Protsenko (Ukr) 7-4½ (2.25);
12. Marco Fassinotti (Ita) 7-2½ (2.20);
13. Oleh Doroshchuk (Ukr) 7-2½ (2.20).
QUALIFYING (August 20)
Qualifiers: all qualifiers cleared 7-5¾/2.28
Non-Qualifiers: [7-4½/2.25]—Thomas Carmoy (Bel), Fernando Ferreira (Bra), Naoto Hasegawa (Jpn), Edgar Rivera (Mex), Donald Thomas (Bah);
[7-3¼/2.22]—Alperen Acet (Tur), Douwe Amels (Neth), Romaine Beckford (Jam), Luis Castro (PR), Hamish Kerr (NZ), Sarvesh Anil Kushare (Ind), Django Lovett (Can), Slavko Stević (Ser), Stefano Sottile (Ita);
[7-1¾/2.18]—Tihomir Ivanov (Bul), Dmytro Nikitin (Ukr), Erick Portillo (Mex), Tomohiro Shinno (Jpn);
[7-¼/2.14]—Joel Baden (Aus), Hicham Bouhanoun (Alg), Gergely Török (Hun), Vernon Turner (US);
… nh—Carlos Layoy (Arg).