Mutaz Essa Barshim in the high jump at the IAAF World Indoor Championships (Getty Images) © Copyright
Preview Portland, USA

Preview: men's high jump – IAAF World Indoor Championships Portland 2016

The extrovert Italian Gianmarco Tamberi leads the world lists with his 2.38m national record that he cleared in Hustopece and he is unbeaten in all four of his competitions this winter, never jumping less than 2.33m.

Now 23, Tamberi’s only previous medal at a major international competition was a bronze at the 2011 European Junior Championships and so the pundits still have questions about how well his nerve will hold with the spotlight on him.

However, Tamberi himself has no such qualms. “I’m ready to face challengers like (Qatar’s Mutaz Essa) Barshim and I’m not going to be afraid of anyone at the World Indoor Championships," he said recently. "I’m also not daunted by 2.40m, I was close with my second attempt at the Italian Championships (which he won with 2.36m)."

By contrast, the championship credentials of defending champion Barshim are indisputable. The Qatari, the second best jumper ever, has also got medals from the London 2012 Olympic Games and 2013 IAAF World Championships to his name as well as a plethora of Asian honours.

Barshim is equal second on the 2016 world indoor list with the 2.36m he cleared in Malmo.

Alongside him in this slot behind Tamberi is Great Britain’s Chris Baker, who improved from a career best of 2.29m to 2.36m when finishing second to Tamberi in Hustopece.

China’s world silver medallist Zhang Guowei has had three low-key competitions in the USA, all wins, while training there and his best for the season so far is 2.30m but he is also a proven championship performer.

Potential medal contenders also include Tamberi’s compatriot Marco Fassinotti, Great Britain’s Robbie Grabarz, Bahamas’ 2007 world champion Donald Thomas and Greece’s Konstadinos Baniotis.

The quartet occupy the next four positions behind Tamberi, Barshim and Baker on the 2016 world indoor list and all of them have jumped 2.33m or better.

Other men with medals from major championships to their name are Olympic silver medallist and US indoor champion Erik Kynard, who was fourth in Sopot two years ago, and Ukraine’s Andriy Protsenko, who finished one place in front of Kynard in Sopot to take the bronze medal. Neither men seem to be in top form this winter although they have both jumped 2.30m.

Phil Minshull for the IAAF