Mutaz Essa Barshim in the high jump at the IAAF World Championships, Moscow 2013
Despite the weather oscillating around 20 degrees Celsius on Tuesday morning, Bohdan Bondarenko seemed to feel the cold as he was dressing in a baggy long-sleeved T-shirt and tights, as well as his Ukrainian vest, during the High Jump qualifying rounds.
Nevertheless, despite his attire giving the impression that he had just rolled out of bed, enhanced by a two-day old beard, the 2.41m world leader showed no signs of being sleepy as he sailed clear on his first attempts at 2.22m and then 2.29m to secure his place in Thursday’s final.
Bondarenko, who has become elevated to one of the stars of the sport this summer, was cheered on by a large contingent of Ukrainian supporters decked out in their national colours of blue and gold, rhythmically and noisily chanting ‘Bohdan, Bohdan.’
If Bondarenko made getting into the final look easy, some other jumpers clearly needed a second cup of coffee.
No less than 17 jumpers attempted 2.29m but only eight cleared, which meant the bar didn’t need to go up to the automatic qualifying height of 2.31m. The remaining four places in the final went to the quartet of jumpers who were flawless up to and including 2.26m.
Bondarenko, the Russian pair of Olympic champion Ivan Ukhov and 2010 European champion Aleksandr Shustov and Great Britain’s Robbie Grabarz were the only four jumpers to progress without any failures on Tuesday.
In Grabarz’s case, it was a welcome return to the form that he showed in 2012 when he won an Olympic bronze medal after suffering an erratic year so far, punctuated by minor injuries.
The four other men to clear 2.29m were Bahamas’ 2007 World champion Donald Thomas, Canada’s Olympic bronze medallist Derek Drouin, China’s Zhang Guowei, and Qatar’s Mutaz Essa Barshim, who has jumped an Asian record of 2.40m this year but struggled with back problems in the last two months.
One big surprise was that USA’s Olympic silver medallist Erik Kynard could not clear 2.29m and only scraped into the final by virtue. He had jumped 2.34m, 2.37m and 2.36m in his three competitions before arriving in Moscow and has been generally considered to be a medal contender.
With 16 men having cleared 2.31m this season, and with 34 men in the qualifying competition, it was inevitable that there were going to be some big names failing to progress.
Among them was the USA’s defending champion Jesse Williams, who could only clear 2.22m although he has been out of form since last summer.
Ukraine’s 2005 World champion Yuriy Krymnarenko similarly departed, also unable to get over 2.26m while Czech Republic’s 2004 Olympic silver medallist and the USA’s Dusty Jonas went over 2.26m but their failures counted against them and they also did not make the final.
In total, no less than six of the 16 men who have jumped 2.31m or higher this season failed to make the final, other notable names including China’s Wang Yu, Canada’s Michael Mason, Ukraine’s Andriy Protsenko, and France’s Mickael Hanany.
Also missing from the final will be Russia’s 2011 World Championships silver medallist Aleksay Dmitrik, who has had technical and fitness problems this season and could go no higher than 2.17m.
Phil Minshull for the IAAF