Mariya Lasitskene in the high jump at the IAAF World Indoor Championships Birmingham 2018 (© Getty Images)
Mariya Lasitskene arrived in Birmingham as one of these championships’ strongest favourites for gold. It was a role she lived up to admirably and with relative ease, winning her second world indoor title with the largest winning margin ever at a World Indoor Championships.
Lasitskene, competing as an authorised neutral athlete, topped 2.01m with her second attempt, but unlike in 2014 when she shared the gold medal with a 2.00m clearance, here she sailed eight centimetres higher than the rest of the field en route to her 38th straight victory.
Opening with a towering clearance at 1.84m, she breezed through the competition with first attempt success at 1.89m, 1.93m and 1.96m, forced to watch as the rest of the field attempted to keep up.
Once the victory was secured, she went on to top 2.01m on her second attempt with what was her best technical leap of the night. Suggesting that she may have found her rhythm, she immediately asked for the bar to be raised to 2.07m as she rolled off the mat.
A close first attempt at the would-be championships record and absolute lifetime best --she barely brushed the bar with her back-- bode well, but, perhaps running out of steam or short of adrenalin, her remaining two fell well short.
As has been the case all this season and most of the last, the field of challengers trailed far behind. Just four jumpers remained in contention at 1.96m, a height none could manage.
Defending champion Vashti Cunningham, the only jumper besides Lasitskene to top the first two heights of 1.84m and 1.89m with her first attempts, sailed clear at 1.93m on her second, enough to seal her silver.
Italy’s Alesia Trost, whose entry was only secured seven days ago with an IAAF invitation to fill out the field, made the most of her unexpected trip to Birmingham’s snowy chill. After an initial miss at 1.84m, she topped 1.89m with her first leap and 1.93m with her second to take bronze. Never has a leap of just 1.93m secured a medal at a World Indoor Championships; this year it was enough for two.
Home crowd favourite Morgan Lake also topped 1.93m, but needed time to find her rhythm. Too much time, as it turned out, as her two misses at the opening height of 1.84 cost her dearly, dragging her down to fourth.
Yuliya Levchenko of Ukraine, the 2017 world silver medallist, appeared to lack confidence on several leaps, and topped out at 1.89m to finish fifth.
Bob Ramsak for the IAAF