Antonietta Di Martino (ITA) scales a 2.04m national record in Banska Bystrica (© Branislav Račko)
Banska, Bystrica, SlovakiaAfter Ivan Ukhov’s spectacular display in attacking the men’s High Jump record two weeks ago in Hustopece, Czech Republic, the Europa Shopping Center High Jump competition in Banská Bystrica, Slovakia, on Wednesday (9) had been tipped as the Russian’s next good opportunity to surpass Javier Sotomayor’s fossilised World record of 2.43m from the 1989 World Indoor Championships.
Again, serious World record assault
And Ukhov almost delivered, having three excellent jumps with height sufficient to claim a new record but nudging the bar off slightly each time. It’s clear that he is getting a good feel for where 2.44m is, and it would not be surprising to see the record fall yet during this indoor season. Ukhov ended as the winner tonight with 2.38m, equaling his world-leading mark, while American Jesse Williams claimed the runner-up spot at 2.34m.
Six of the original 14 competitors remained alive as the bar went to 2.30m, the beginning edge of elite high-jumping’s respect range.
With Italy’s Nicola Ciotti passing, Williams and Ukhov were immediately successful, while Ukhov’s compatriot Sergey Mudrov and Dmytro Demyanyuk of Ukraine needed two attempts. A third Russian, the normally consistent Aleksey Dmitrik, had been having ankle problems for much of the evening, and after a single failure, he passed to 2.32m.
Ukhov and Williams sat out this height, while Demyanyuk surprised with a powerful PB clearance on his opening jump to move into the lead. Mudrov, with two creditable but unsuccessful attempts, exited at this point, as did Ciotti and Dmitrik, leaving three jumpers to joust at 2.34m.
Demyanyuk, after having just leaped a PB, cited fatigue as his reason for passing to 2.36m, and Williams and Ukhov prepared to do battle.
Jumping at 2.34m took less than two minutes, as both competitors cleared on their initial tries. Both the Russian and the American passed 2.36m to set up yet another duel at 2.38m.
Meanwhile at 2.36m, the Ukrainian took three undistinguished attempts to end in third place.
With both Williams and Ukhov firmly locked in a tie without a failure all evening, the drama began in earnest at 2.38m. The American missed, but the Russian cleared with three or four centimetres of space to take the advantage. Willliams eventually found 2.38m out of his range, although his second leap had merit, with only a slight nudge by his calf separating him from a PB.
That left Ukhov alone on the sport hall floor with the win in his pocket and the bar resting at 2.44m. Jumping with very little time between attempts, he showed great lift and had the capacity audience gasping each time, but just as in Hustopece, the record remained elusive.
“Jesse was the one who pushed me tonight,” Ukhov said later. “I wasn’t going to jump 2.38m, but rather would have liked 2.39m, to get a new meeting record. But since I was not jumping alone at that point, I was forced by Jesse to jump with him to protect my leading position.”
Ukhov mentioned that he felt a small amount of tightness in his left hip after the first of his 2.44m attempts, but he was not concerned about any problem in his upcoming competitions, the next of which will be the Russian Indoor Championships next week.
“I really wanted to jump that world record tonight, and I tried. It just didn’t happen.”
Williams was happy to have a season-best 2.34m, but with the amount of space he had over the bar, he also felt that 2.38m was within his grasp tonight. “I just got excited and tried to push too hard on my approach,” he self-critiqued. “I’m going back home tomorrow, and I hope that I get a good shot at it at the US Championships in two weeks.”
Di Martino shocks with 2.04m clearance
As in all women’s High Jump competitions this winter, the absence of superstars Blanka Vlasic of Croatia and Germany’s Ariane Friedrich are felt every time. Expectations, for this season at least, must undergo a downward adjustment. Usually.
Still, the women on hand on this unseasonably warm day (8C) in the Tatra foothills found a way to reach the entertainment level to which their Slovak fans had been accustomed over the 18 years of the fixture’s history.
The field of nine had become reduced to three by the time the bar went to 1.94m. Even by then, 20-year-old Ana Šimic had become the crowd’s sentimental favourite. Entering the season with an indoor PB of 1.82m and raising that to 1.87m three weeks ago, the Croatian added significantly to her resume with third-attempt successes at 1.89m and 1.92m to stay in contention against more experienced jumpers Antonietta Di Martino of Italy and Russia’s Svetlana Shkolina.
With 11 jumps already behind her, a fatigued Šimic exited the competition with three failures at 1.94m as the other two continued their blemish-free evening.
At 1.96m, Di Martino led off with an impressive first-jump success, appearing to have as much as five or six centimetres of space. The Russian, perhaps a bit unnerved, nicked the bar off on her next jump and immediately passed to 1.98m.
The Italian boldly eschewed her attempts at this height, leaving Shkolina to jump alone. The lean Russian then cleared a world-leading best on her second (and final) attempt to send the bar to 2.00m.
Undaunted, Di Martino proceeded to add a second career two-metre jump on her first attempt, keeping her scorecard clean for the contest and again putting pressure on the Russian.
After one miss, it was somewhat surprising that Shkolina did not pass as she did in an identical situation at 1.96m. A second-attempt miss followed, the Russian rattled the bar on her third jump but it did not fall. She, too, found herself over two metres indoors for the second time in her life.
Now at 2.02m, Di Martino was fearless as she again had a first-jump success to extend her Italian national indoor record by two centimetres. With a two-metre jump already recorded, Shkolina found no purpose in trying 2.02m, and she passed to 2.04m.
After eight straight clearances, Di Martino finally lost complete perfection with misses on her first two attempts. But on her final attempt, she skimmed the bar with the minimum amount of space and pushed the national record up to 2.04m. Shkolina meanwhile was unsuccessful and ended with 2.00m.
In a state of euphoria, Di Martino retired for the night, but not before she and Shkolina had brought women’s high jumping back to life for this season.
“I came here hoping for something like 2.00. To get 2.04 is absolutely incredible,” said the Italian, who now occupies position No. 7 on the world all-time list. “I trained outdoors in fantastic weather in San Diego in January, and it prepared me well for this indoor season.”
But the 1.69m tall Di Martino, who extended her unofficial
jump-over-height differential world best for women to 35 centimetres, actually felt that her overall condition in 2007, when she was four years younger and had her previous 2.00m indoors, was better than it is now.
“Why, then, did I jump so high tonight? I think it was because of more experience than before. And perhaps I was better focused in my mind.”
Ed Gordon for the IAAF
1. Ukhov (RUS) 2.38 (WL=) [2.20 – 2.26 – 2.30 – 2.34 – 2.38 – 2.44/xxx]; 2. Williams (USA) 2.34 [2.20 – 2.26 – 2.30 – 2.34 – 2.38/xxx]; 3. Demyanyuk (UKR) 2.32 [2.15 – 2.20 – 2.26 – 2.30/2 – 2.32 – 2.36/xxx]; 4. Mudrov (RUS) 2.30; 5. Dmitrik (RUS) 2.28; 6. N Ciotti (ITA) 2.28; 7. Theiner (POL) 2.26; 8. Horak (SVK) 2.26; 9. Shapoval (UKR) 2.23; 10. Nieto (USA) and Campioli (ITA) 2.20; 12. Durkác (SVK) 2.20; 13. Ninov (BUL) 2.15; 14. Beer (SVK) 2.15.
1. Di Martino (ITA) 2.04 (national record; world leader) [1.82 – 1.86 – 1.89 – 1.92 – 1.94 – 1.96 – 2.00 – 2.02 NR – 2.04/3 NR]; 2. Shkolina (RUS) 2.00 [1.86 – 1.89 – 1.92 – 1.94 – 1.96/xp – 1.98/2 – 2.00/3 – 2.04/xxx]; 3. Šimic (CRO) 1.92 [1.77/2 – 1.82 – 1.86/2 – 1.89/3 – 1.92/3 – 1.94/xxx]; 4. Klyugina (RUS) 1.86; 5. Stepaniuk (POL) 1.86; 6. Kufaas (NOR) 1.82; 7. Dobrinska (UKR) 1.82; 8. Marešová (CZE) 1.82; 9. Dunajská (SVK) 1.72.