The theme of upsets continued into the penultimate day of the IAAF World Championships London 2017, but Maria Lasitskene coolly retained her world title in the high jump with a first-time clearance at 2.03m.
Competing under a neutral banner, Lasitskene had a brief lapse at 1.99m with the reigning champion recording her first failure of the competition. Poland’s Kamila Licwinko and Ukraine’s Yulia Levchenko took advantage and went ahead of Lasitskene with first-time clearances. But, eschewing any further attempts, the 24-year-old moved to the next height of 2.01m and immediately regained the lead with a first-time clearance – her 14th competition of the season at 2.00m or higher.
Licwinko, who danced off the mat after clearing 1.99m to secure a medal, bowed out at the next height but a bronze represented an overdue breakthrough after a string of near misses, including seventh and fourth-place finishes at the past two editions of the World Championships.
“I am hungry to stay up here now and I want to jump more and more,” said Licwinko, who was ninth at the Olympics last summer. “I was down after Rio and my coach and my husband helped me a lot. They told me to stay positive and told me that I can win medals again. We worked so hard after the Olympics and all the work has just paid off.”
However, the competition continued with Levchenko – almost unnoticed as the 5000m final reached its climax – clearing 2.01m on her second attempt, her second lifetime best of the competition. But while Levchenko – who, at 19, becomes the event's youngest ever medallist in World Championships history – had never even attempted 2.03m before this final, Lasitskene had already cleared that height five times this summer. She did so for a sixth time tonight.
"A gold medal here was my main goal for this season,” said Lasitskene, who endeavoured to add two centimetres to her lifetime best tonight. “But certainly, I would like to raise the bar a bit higher. I didn't like any one of my attempts at 2.08m.”
But having achieved her foremost goal for the season, Lasitskene will now turn her focus to heights for the remainder of the season and she even has half an eye on Stefka Kostadinova’s world record of 2.09m which dates all the way back to the 1987 World Championships in Rome.
"I hope I still have potential to break the world record this season,” said Lasitskene. “I am not sure how I will celebrate this win because my next competition is on 15 August.”
Ruth Beitia claimed two major titles last summer but the Olympic and European champion only scraped through to the final with a third-time clearance at 1.92m.
The same height in the final was beyond her capacity and the Spaniard – perhaps contesting her final global outdoor championships at the age of 38 – was the only finalist not to go clear at that height.
Steven Mills for the IAAF