Blanka Vlasic in the high jump at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games (© Getty Images)
In a routine qualification session, 17 women advanced to Saturday evening’s high jump final with all the chief protagonists progressing without incident.
The most intriguing element in the battle to win a place in the final centred on the form and fitness of two-time world champion Blanka Vlasic, who due to lingering achilles issues has not competed since January.
However, the Croatian’s Rio gamble – and attempt to land her maiden Olympic title – appears on track as she enjoyed a flawless qualification up to and including the automatic qualifying height of 1.94m.
Five other women had a perfect qualification record, including Spanish veteran Ruth Beitia, the European champion and world indoor silver medallist, who will be in the mix for Olympic gold.
World leader and mum-of-three Chaunte Lowe also advanced without alarm. Others to do so were Lowe’s US teammate Inika McPherson, Commonwealth bronze medallist Levern Spencer of St Lucia, and Uzbekistan’s Svetlana Radzivil, who finished seventh at the 2012 Olympics.
World indoor champion Vashti Cunningham was not quite so convincing. The US teenager appeared short of the form which earlier this took to an world U20 indoor record of 1.99m as she cleared both 1.89m and 1.92m at the second time of asking before scraping into the final with a successful third attempt at 1.94m.
Others to advance included 2014 world indoor champion Kamila Licwinko of Poland and European silver medallist Mirela Demireva of Bulgaria, courtesy of first-time clearances at 1.94m. Both had failures earlier in the competition with Demireva relieved to dodge the bullet after needing three attempts to successfully jump 1.92m.
World No.2 Marie-Laurence Jungfleisch of Germany – who posted a PB of 2.00m in Eberstadt last month – needed a second-time clearance at 1.94m to secure her place in the final, as did joint European silver medallist Airine Palsyte of Lithuania, who qualifies for her second successive Olympic final.
One or two names to miss out include world U20 and world U18 champion Michaela Hruba of the Czech Republic, who achieved a best of 1.92m, and Ukrainian champion Oksana Okuneva, who had a season’s best of 1.97m but today could only achieve a height of 1.89m.
Steve Landells for the IAAF