High jump winner Mutaz Essa Barshim at the 2014 IAAF World Indoor Championships in Sopot (© Getty Images)
You know when it’s getting to business time in the men’s high jump. Ivan Ukhov removes his training tights.
The 2012 Olympic champion and red hot favourite kept his leggings on as he sailed over 2.20m, 2.29m and 2.34m at the first time of asking. Not until the bar was raised to 2.38m did we get a sight of the Russian’s legs.
At that stage there were only four men left in the medal mix. There might have been four but Ukhov’s team mate Daniil Tsyplakov was timed out after clearing 2.36m.
As it was, Ukhov was one of two jumpers with a perfect card. Mutaz Essa Barsham, the Olympic bronze medallist and world silver medallist from Qatar, was in silky smooth form, sailing over 2.20m, 2.25m, 2.29m, 2.32m, 2.34m and 2.36m with room to spare.
Andriy Protsenko of Ukraine needed three attempts to clear 2.32m but nailed 2.36m first time. Olympic silver medallist Erik Kynard was doing his best to hang in. The US jumper managed 2.34m but failed on his first attempt at 2.36m, then passed to 2.38m and bowed out with two failures at that height.
Protsenko exited too, but with the consolation of a bronze medal and a personal best. Ukhov was on the verge of following suit after two failures but then roused himself and the crowd, clearing the bar with his final attempt.
Barshim succeeded with his first attempt, improving his Asian indoor record, and it was the jump that was to win him the gold. Both the Qatari and Ukhov were unable to register a clearance at 2.40m, so Barshim took the title on count-back.
Ukhov, unbeaten in his previous seven competitions this winter, looked crestfallen. Barshim was so overjoyed, he raced up into the stands, in the style of Pat Cash at Wimbledon circa 1987, to celebrate with his coach and support team.
The 22-year-old has made a habit of finishing on the podium at global championships, on this occasion at the very top of the pile. “It is my first indoor medal and it’s a gold,” he said. “I’m very happy with that and with an Asian record.”
As for Ukhov, the beaten favourite insisted: “I’m not unhappy. I wasn’t quite successful, but it happens. It’s just sport.”
Simon Turnbull for the IAAF