A vociferous and passionate section of the crowd decked in Azzurri blue were sent into ecstasy as Stefano Sottile equalled his world-youth-leading mark of 2.20m to claim a pulsating victory at the IAAF World Youth Championships, Cali 2015 on Saturday night (18).
The Italian’s first-time clearance at that mark – which was greeted by one of the picture-book moments of the championships as he sprinted towards the throbbing hordes of his supporters and into their jubilant arms – was enough to finally repel the dogged challenge of Dmytro Nikitin.
The 15-year-old Ukrainian had the consolation of equalling his personal best of 2.18m for silver with USA’s Darius Carbin producing the performance of his life to advance his best by five centimetres and collect an unexpected bronze with a clearance at 2.16m.
It was Carbin who had controlled the early phase of the competition, clearing every height up to and including 2.14m at the first time of asking.
However, this height proved terminal for the medal chances of Turkey’s Alperen Acet and the more fancied of the two US jumpers, Jaron Brooks, who come to the competition with a best of 2.17m.
Carbin was joined as a 2.14m conqueror by Nikitin while Sottile dodged a bullet, slithering over the bar with his final attempt to maintain his interest in the competition.
At 2.16m, it was the Ukrainian who took control, sailing clear with his first attempt with Carbin needing a second attempt.
Sottile, meanwhile, was forced to once more give a demonstration of the sort of escapology skills David Copperfield would be proud of by yet again making a successful clearance at the third time of asking.
The next height at 2.18m saw Carbin’s challenge evaporate but Nikitin continued serenely on, once again successful first time.
Sottile was suddenly starting to warm to the challenge. Spurred on by his cheering supporters, complete with ear-splitting horns, he made it with his second attempt and then ran towards them in jubilation.
Nudging the bar up to 2.20m – a mark only Sottile has cleared in this age group this year – proved decisive.
He went over the horizontal bar without a touch to spark wild celebrations.
The largely emotionless Nikitin missed out on his first attempt and then passed, raising the bar to 2.22m – a four-centimetre improvement on his lifetime best – but found that beyond him.
Cue Sottile’s extended celebration.
“It was very strange,” said the Italian. “At the start of the competition I felt my legs and I had problems jumping, but after jumping more and more I lost that feeling, and I became better and better. I think it was the adrenaline.”
It was, surprisingly, only Italy’s second gold medal at an IAAF World Youth Championships, the other one also going to a high jumper, Alessia Trost in 2009.
Steve Landells for the IAAF