Derek Drouin in the high jump at the IAAF World Championships, Beijing 2015 (© Getty Images)
There were no records set in the high jump on Sunday with the bar not going higher than 2.36m, but the medals were decided in an unprecedented, as far as the World Championships were concerned, three-way jump off won by Canada’s Derek Drouin.
Torrential rain came down in the afternoon ahead of the final session of the IAAF World Championships but the rain stopped just ahead of the start of the competition and the apron dried quickly and didn’t seem to have any lasting effect on the majority of the 14 men in the final.
The competition started in earnest when the bar was raised to 2.33m with seven jumpers still in the hunt.
It proved to be a height too far for Czech Republic’s 2004 Olympic bronze medallist Jaroslav Baba and Russia’s European indoor champion Daniil Tsyplakov, while The Bahamas’ 2007 world champion Donald Thomas decided to gamble and pass after taking two attempts at 2.29m.
However, Canada’s 2012 Olympic and 2013 world bronze medallist Derek Drouin, home favourite Zhang Guowei and Ukraine’s defending champion Bogdan Bondarenko continued their flawless competition by going clear at the first time of asking.
Mutaz Essa Barshim also got over this height on his first attempt but, having taken two attempts to clear 2.29m, Qatar’s world indoor champion was lagging behind the leading trio on countback.
At 2.36m, the tension started to show with everyone.
None of the five managed to clear the bar on any of their three attempts – although all of them apart from Thomas have jumped higher this year – but Bondarenko did come close on his first and third attempts, just bringing it down with his heels on both occasions.
With Barshim and Thomas having failures earlier in the competition, after 15 successive failed attempts, this pair were eliminated and it was left to Drouin, Zhang and Bondarenko to have a fourth attempt at 2.36m in a sudden death jump-off.
Drouin had a close jump, just skimming the bar with his backside although it was enough to bring the bar down, but he lived to fight another day when his two rivals also failed, Zhang’s efforts getting successively worse and worse despite the crowd raucously urging him on as the pressure of expectation seemed to start to tell.
The bar then dropped to 2.34m and Drouin, jumping first, flew straight over.
The Canadian had a nail-biting couple of minutes as first Bondarenko and then Zhang brought the bar down. He then visibly sighed with relief and broke into a big smile before draping a flag around his shoulder, the standard victory ritual for gold medallists.
Drouin improved from bronze in 2013 to gold, becoming the Canada’s first world champion in this event, while Bondarenko and Zhang shared second place.
The Ukrainian had been struggling with injury problems this season, having to miss almost two months of competition. It was his 26th birthday on Sunday and he seemed undecided about whether he liked his silver medal present or not.
“If somebody told me one month ago that I would get silver at the World Championships, I would be happy," said Bondarenko. "I was not in shape at the time and had to fight some injury. But today it does not feel like that; I feel upset."
Elena Dyachkova and Phil Minshull for the IAAF