Bogdan Bondarenko will renew his high jump rivalry with Mutaz Essa Barshim in Shanghai on Sunday (17), the second stop on this year’s IAAF Diamond League calendar.
The world and European champion is a late addition to the high jump field which is headed by Barshim, the high-flying Qatari whose record-breaking battles with Bondarenko thrilled fans throughout the 2014 season when the pair vied for supremacy over the bar, pushing each other to new heights each time they met.
While the Ukrainian came out four-three up in head-to-head contests, it was Barshim who clinched the Diamond Race trophy and US$40,000 winner-takes-all cheque when he cleared 2.43m at the IAAF Diamond League final in Brussels at the beginning of September.
It was the third Asian record of the summer to fall to the 23-year-old world indoor champion, making him the second-best jumper of all time after Cuba’s Javier Sotomayor, whose world record of 2.45m is increasingly under threat.
But Bondarenko also had an incredible season as he leapt above 2.40m four times and equalled the European record of 2.42m in New York where he and Barshim became the only pair in history to attack the world record at the same meeting.
The 25-year-old won 11 of his 14 outdoor competitions in 2014, took gold at the European Championships in Zurich and won maximum points for Europe at the IAAF Continental Cup in Marrakech where he beat Barshim again in another close contest.
Bondarenko’s late call-up to the Shanghai meeting follows his recent morale-boosting performance at the Golden Grand Prix in Kawasaki where he opened his season by leaping 2.37m to go to the top of the 2015 world lists.
Barshim also comes to Shanghai in good form having twice broken the Asian indoor record this year, leaping 2.40m and 2.41m to place equal fourth on the world all-time indoor list. He added the 2015 Asian Championships title to his growing collection of honours when he won in Manama last month in his first outdoor competition of the year.
While all eyes will be on the big two, the field also includes a pair of top-quality US jumpers in Olympic silver medallist Erik Kynard and 2011 world champion Jesse Williams, who can both clear 2.37m at their best.
Bondarenko will join a trio of other Europeans in Czech record-holder Jaroslav Baba, Russia’s European indoor champion Daniyil Tsyplakov and Poland’s Wojciech Theiner, while Zhang Guowei could well give the hosts a reason to cheer.
A finalist at the last two World Championships, Zhang won silver behind Barshim at the 2014 Asian Games last October and has already leapt 2.35m this year.
He will be joined by compatriot Wang Yu, while Barshim has the company of his younger brother Muamer who’ll be looking to improve on his best of 2.28m.
Organisers for the IAAF