High jump winner Breyton Poole at the IAAF World U18 Championships Nairobi 2017 (© Getty Images)
The victory itself was not a surprise, but world U18 leader Breyton Poole produced one of the most captivating displays of the championships to win the high jump title in Nairobi, the 1.72m tall jumper improving on his personal best three times.
He became the second South African to win the world U18 title in the event, following in the footsteps of Jacques Freitag, the winner of the inaugural edition of the championships in 1999, who went on to take the world senior title in 2003.
Poole did not have it all his own way from the start, as he found himself behind on countback for much of the competition, but in the end he asserted his dominance, clearing a height 10 centimetres above anyone else to achieve the biggest winning margin in the history of the championships.
In a high-quality competition with the top six all setting personal bests, Chima Ihenetu of Germany was the runner-up with 2.14m, while Vladyslav Lavskyy of Ukraine took the bronze on countback with 2.11m.
Of all entrants in the competition, none besides Poole had previously cleared higher than 2.10m. It thus came as a major surprise when five of the seven jumpers attacking 2.11m cleared the height.
Lavskyy, who entered the competition with a personal best of just 2.06m, was the leader of the competition at this point, the only jumper with a clean slate after taking his best to 2.07m and then 2.11m. Poole also cleared 2.11m on his first attempt, but had previously had a failure at 2.02m.
Ihenetu cleared 2.11m, a personal best by three centimetres, on his second attempt to find himself in third. Poland's Piotr Sztandur and Shaun Miller of The Bahamas were in fourth and fifth after third-time clearances.
The next height of 2.14m proved too much for three of the five. Poole, unsurprisingly, went over the bar on his first jump, but just a couple of minutes later so did Ihenetu, now going six centimetres above his previous career best. The two were now tied for the lead, as Lavskyy was assured of getting the bronze.
The competition was effectively decided at 2.16m. The South African needed two attempts this time, but he did clear, while the German took just one jump before passing to 2.18m.
That height proved too much for Ihenetu. His rival watched from the sidelines as the German took the remaining two jumps without getting close to clearing the bar.
The title was now decided. But it was far from over. Poole ordered the bar be raised to 2.20m and once again cleared that on the second try. Then came a first-time clearance at 2.22m. And after that, the bar was raised by another two centimetres.
Poole would have been justified in feeling tired by now, but he did not give up. He failed twice, but then sailed over the bar on what was his 14th jump of the competition.
It was not until 2.27m, a height that would have equalled the championship record, that he had to bow out with three failed attempts.
“I was patient from the beginning and became more confident as the event went on,” said Poole. “I feel great having set three PBs in one competition.”
Pawel Jackowski for the IAAF