Qatar’s world indoor champion Mutaz Essa Barshim, one of the most recognisable faces in the sport after his stunning performances in 2014, may lead this year’s world list having jumped 2.41m both indoors and out earlier in the season, but five different winners in the six IAAF Diamond League meetings this summer suggests that the battle for the medals is wide open.
Barshim took the first two IAAF Diamond League contests in Shanghai and Eugene back in May but since then the winners of the season-long series have been China’s Zhang Guowei in Oslo, Russia’s Daniil Tsyplakov in Paris, Italy’s Marco Fassinotti in London and most recently USA’s JaCorian Duffield in Stockholm.
Conceivably, any one of these five could be on the podium but that analysis doesn’t even take defending champion Bogdan Bondarenko from Ukraine into consideration.
Barshim went unbeaten indoors and rattled off three good wins at the start of the season but has only won one of his subsequent six meetings as his form and confidence seemed to ebb away.
Nevertheless, given his competitive record, which includes a silver medal at the last IAAF World Championships in Moscow two years ago, he should still be in the reckoning.
Guowei, one of the main Chinese medal hopes, has cleared 2.38m this year – when finishing second behind Barshim in Eugene when the latter cleared his world-leading height – to lie second on the 2015 world list.
He has the chance to emulate the man he is bidding to succeed as the national record-holder, Zhu Jianhua, an iconic figure in Chinese athletics having got his country’s first IAAF World Championships medal when he finished third at the inaugural edition in 1983 and one year later broke the world record with 2.39m.
Bondarenko will hopefully have recovered from his recent injury problems in the defence of his title but cleared 2.37m earlier in the season and he will arrive in Beijing as the reigning European champion as well.
More recently, USA’s Erik Kynard and Canada’s Derek Drouin – both medallists at the London 2012 Olympic Games – have also gone over 2.37m, the latter when winning the Pan American Games at the end of last month.
Gianmarco Tamberi has also cleared that height in the past few weeks, the extrovert Italian setting a national record at the famous German high jump meeting in Eberstadt on 2 August.
The entry list also includes former global champions Donald Thomas of The Bahamas, Ukraine’s Yuriy Krymarenko, USA’s Jesse Williams and Russia's 2012 Olympic champion Ivan Ukhov. But current form suggests only Thomas has realistic medal ambitions.
With such a wide variety of talented performers, some of whom might not even make the final, everything points towards an enthralling, entertaining, and rather unpredictable competition, regardless of the heights eventually reached.
Phil Minshull for the IAAF