Derek Drouin has been a bit under the radar for much of this summer, despite being the wold champion, but he cleared 2.38m at the Eberstadt high jump meeting in Germany last month to show all was well and replicated that height when winning in Rio.
Drouin proved, once again, that he is the man for the big occasion.
After a stellar collegiate career while a student in the USA, he took a bronze medal at the London 2012 Olympic Games at the age of 22 and has kept on getting on the podium ever since.
He also took bronze at the 2013 World Championships, then gold in 2015 as well as gold at the 2014 Commonwealth Games and 2015 Pan Am Games.
In Rio, the crucial height came at 2.33m. 10 of the 15 field for the final were still in the contest at that height and six cleared it. Drouin, world leader Mutaz Essa Barshim, 2013 world champion Bogdan Bondarenko, world indoor silver medallist Robbie Grabarz and 2014 European silver medallist Andriy Protsenko all cleared on their first attempt while 2012 Olympic silver medallist and this year’s US champion Erik Kynard need three tries to go clear.
Bondarenko passed at 2.36m while Drouin and Barshim both produced soaring clearances at this height with their first attempts, and the other three all brought the bar down three times.
With the medallists now known but not the order – Bondarenko had been flawless up to and including 2.33m while Grabarz, Kynard and Protsenko all had failures to their name up to that point in the competition – the bar was raised to 2.38m.
Bondarenko golden gamble fails
Bondarenko had a narrow failure, just brining the bar down with his calf but then Drouin produced the jump of his life to go clear at 2.38m and take the initiative. With plenty of daylight between himself and the bar, it was intrinsically better than when he jumped his Canadian record of 2.40m at the Drake Relays in 2014.
It was to be the winning effort and the last successful jump of the contest.
Barshim had three competent attempts at 2.38m without quite looking like he was going to clear this height and moved up from bronze four years ago in London to silver on this occasion – the best ever result by a Qatari sportsman or women in the history of the Olympics after four bronze medals – while Bondarenko had one further, and poorer, attempt at 2.38m before having one final throw of the dice and taking his last attempt at 2.40m.
This too was a failure and he had to settle for the bronze medal.
With Olympic gold his, the first Canadian success in this event since Duncan McNaughton in 1932, Drouin had one valedictory attempt at 2.40m but, emotionally spent, it was a half-hearted effort and he then called it a night.
"It feels pretty sweet," said a contented Drouin. "There have been some sacrifices but I've always prided myself on my mental toughness. My family were in the front row. Mom was in tears and Pop was so proud."
Phil Minshull for the IAAF