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Previews14 Mar 2022

High jumpers ready to rise to the global occasion in Belgrade


World high jump leader Woo Sanghyeok (© Getty Images)

For the first time since the 2008 championships in Valencia, the World Athletics Indoor Championships field will not include the purple-vested prince of the men’s high jump, Mutaz Essa Barshim, winner in Sopot in 2014 and runner up in Birmingham four years ago.

That, to offer perspective which seems to stretch to a whole different historical dimension, was the year Stefan Holm equalled Javier Sotomayor’s record of four titles. 

As for the other half of that touching moment in Tokyo last August, when it was agreed to share the glory of Olympic gold, Gianmarco Tamberi has been a surprise entry on the Italian team sheet but is undecided about confirming his participation.

The 2016 champion intended to bypass the indoor season but had second thoughts about Belgrade after a spell of impressive warm-weather training in Mauritius. He was undecided again last week after being unable to undertake a key trial because of a heating problem at his training base in Ancona.

Tamberi has not competed since winning the Diamond League title with a 2.34m clearance in Zurich on 9 September. He did, however, wow the crowd and the television commentators by scoring with a stunning put-back dunk in the NBA Celebrity All Stars basketball match in Cleveland last month.

In terms of current form, the strong favourite is Woo Sanghyeok. The 25-year-old Korean, who finished fourth in that epic Olympic final, stands clear at the top of the 2022 world indoor list with the 2.36m he cleared at Hustopece in the Czech Republic on 5 February.

The 2013 world youth champion backed that up with a 2.35m success in Banska Bystrica, Slovakia, 10 days later. He stands to become only the second winner, or indeed medallist, from Asia – after the trailblazing Barshim.

None of the other five men who have nailed 2.30m indoors this year are on the entry list. The next best is Belgium’s 2021 European indoor bronze medallist Thomas Carmoy with 2.27m. 

However, “Flying Kiwi” Hamish Kerr cleared 2.30m outdoors in Auckland on 20 February and will be targeting a podium place on what will be his indoor debut. The 25-year-old set a New Zealand outdoor record of 2.31m last year and finished 10th in the Olympic final.

There are also several other sometime 2.30m-plus performers who will be looking to rise to the big occasion and squeeze into the medal frame: 2007 world outdoor champion Donald Thomas of Bahamas, now 37; Brazil’s 2021 South American champion Fernando Ferreira; 2017 world outdoor fourth-place finisher Edgar Rivera of Mexico; Japan’s Asian Championships bronze medallist Naoto Tobe; Darryl Sullivan Jnr of the USA; and Swiss champion Loic Gasch.

Simon Turnbull for World Athletics