Since winning the world high jump title in Beijing two years ago, Maria Lasitskene has won 33 of her 36 competitions indoors and outdoors and arrives in the British capital having amounted a win streak of 24 competitions and counting.
Put simply, Lasitskene is one of the redoubtable gold medal favourites at this championships and her dominance of the event can also be measured on the world lists. Lasitskene is the only jumper to surpass the two-metre barrier outdoors this summer – a feat which she has achieved 11 times, as well as twice during the indoor season.
Now 24, Lasitskene is approaching her prime and her form has brought Stefka Kostadinova’s world record of 2.09m – a mark which has eluded some of the recent greats of the event – back into view. Lasitskene most recently attacked that mark in Lausanne after raising her world lead to 2.06m and it would be fitting if the reigning champion bettered Kostadinova’s mark exactly three decades after the Bulgarian cleared the existing record at the World Championships in Rome.
The only other jumper to clear the two-metre mark this season is Lithuania’s Airine Palsyte, who did so twice indoors. Her performance at the European Indoor Championships in Belgrade – where she cleared 2.01m to defeat Olympic champion Ruth Beitia – seemed to be a precursor to a successful summer campaign but she has since been troubled by injury and has only competed twice outdoors, no heighting in one competition and clearing 1.85m in the other.
Beitia herself has been troubled by hip and shoulder injuries and has only cleared 1.94m this season but she will be the only returning medallist from the 2016 Olympics. Bulgaria’s Mirela Demireva missed out on selection having only cleared 1.90m this year while two-time world champion Blanka Vlasic from Croatia hasn’t competed at all due to injury.
One athlete rounding into form is world indoor champion Vashti Cunningham, who is one of the event’s youngest entrants at 19. The US teenager lies second on the world lists with 1.99m and while she might not be capable of challenging Lasitskene just yet, Cunningham has been on the cusp of breaking into two-metre territory all summer. While Lasitskene is getting close to the world record, Cunningham has the world U20 record of 2.01m within her grasp.
Kamila Licwinko shared top spot on the podium with Lasitskene at the 2014 World Indoor Championships in Sopot and the in-form Pole will be aiming to claim her first major outdoor medal at 31. Licwinko only finished one height behind Lasitskene in Padua earlier this month where she cleared a season’s best of 1.98m before winning the Polish title with 1.95m followed by three attempts at 2.00m.
The heptathletes upstaged the individual exponents last summer and Olympic heptathlon champion Nafissatou Thiam and Katarina Johnson-Thompson, who both ￼cleared 1.98m during the heptathlon in Rio, are set to double up. Thiam matched that performance in the Gotzis Hypo-Meeting and is still third on the world list at this discipline two months later.
Ukraine will be fielding a strong trio including the recently crowned European U23 champion Yulia Levchenko and national champion Oksana Okuneva who are equal fifth on the world list with 1.97m along with German champion Marie-Laurence Jungfleisch.
Steven Mills for the IAAF