Canada's Derek Drouin in the high jump at the London 2012 Olympic Games (Getty Images) © Copyright
Preview Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Preview: men's high jump – Rio 2016 Olympic Games

In the absence of Italy’s world indoor and European champion Gianmarco Tamberi, who cleared a national record of 2.39m at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Monaco but then injured himself when attempting what would have been a world-leading 2.41m, this event looks quite open.

Mutaz Essa Barshim leads the world lists with the 2.40m that he jumped at a small meeting in Poland on 11 June. The 2014 world indoor champion also won at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Birmingham six days before that feat but his competitive record has been slightly erratic this year and he slumped to fourth in Monaco last month.

Nevertheless, what greater motivation will Barshim have than the opportunity for him to become his country’s first ever Olympic gold medallist, his bronze medal in London four years ago being one of four of that hue that constitute Qatar’s Olympic medal tally.

Canada’s Derek Drouin, like Barshim a bronze medallist in London, is moving into form at just the right time, the world champion clearing 2.38m at the famous Eberstadt high jump meeting last month.

"I won bronze in London but I want to be an Olympic champion," said Drouin, who also won bronze at the 2013 World Championships, then gold in 2015 and gold at the 2014 Commonwealth Games and 2015 Pan Am Games. "I want to win three world titles. I'm still hungry for more."

If Barshim and Drouin are, perhaps, the slight favourites for the gold medal, not far behind are the two former world champions Bogdan Bondarenko and Donald Thomas.

Bondarenko was frustrated with minor injuries during 2015 and missed the 2016 indoor season but won at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Rome two months ago and then has come really good in the past few weeks.

The Ukrainian cleared 2.37m for second place in Monaco and then 2.35m at the Gyulai memorial meeting just outside Budapest to finish behind a rejuvenated Thomas who improved his personal best after a nine-year hiatus to 2.37m, although the latter – one of the most naturally talented high jumpers on the circuit – is still maddeningly erratic.

Kynard's moment to find the Midas touch

London silver medallist Erik Kynard, who also won the 2016 world indoor bronze medal, has jumped sparingly since he won at the opening IAAF Diamond League meeting in Doha in early May but won his fourth consecutive US title in June to secure his place in Rio.

The above five all know what it is like to be on the podium at a global championship and so too does Great Britain’s Robbie Grabarz and China’s Zhang Guowei.

Grabarz was the 2012 European champion and, shortly afterwards, got a bronze medal in London and seemed to have put behind him his injury problems of recent years when he got the silver medal behind Tamberi at the World Indoor Championships in Portland. Zhang got the silver medal in front of his home crowd at the IAAF World Championships Beijing 2015.

Neither man has been in quite the same form as some previous years but both are proven competitors on the big occasion and it would be unwise to discard them from medal consideration.

One man who has few big-time credentials – he has failed to make the final at the past two Olympic Games and past four World Championships – is Majd Eddiin Ghazal, but the Syrian has made big advances this year and been over 2.30m or better in four of his five outdoor competitions, including a national record of 2.36m to win at the IAAF World Challenge meeting in Beijing.

No Syrian male athlete has ever won an Olympic medal and if Ghazal was able to achieve such a feat it would certainly bring a smile to some faces in that troubled nation.  

Olympic champion Ivan Ukhov will not defend his title owing to the sanctions against Russian athletes.

Phil Minshull for the IAAF