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Previews14 Mar 2022

Patterson and Mahuchikh head Belgrade high jump field


Ukrainian high jumper Yaroslava Mahuchikh (© AFP / Getty Images)

In her first ever indoor season, Australia’s Eleanor Patterson has the chance to go straight to the top as a gold medal contender in the women’s high jump at the World Athletics Indoor Championships Belgrade 22.

The 25-year-old set an Oceanian indoor record of 1.99m on her indoor career debut in Banska Bystrica last month and that remains the world lead, the Olympic fifth-place finisher having backed it up with wins in Birmingham and Madrid – with heights of 1.97m and 1.96m – to claim the overall World Athletics Indoor Tour title.

It proves that her decision to return to the sport is paying off. Patterson has explained how she “essentially quit the sport” in 2018, having fallen out of love with athletics, but guided by coach Alex Stewart she made a comeback the following year and is seeing the benefit of a training block free from injury.

"Australia being so far away, we definitely make the effort to come over, and make the most of the opportunities that are thrown my way," she said after her win in Birmingham.

"I’m thrilled to be here and to have a solid block of training under my belt, which hasn’t happened for a long while.”

Success would see her become Australia's first ever women's field event champion in the global indoor competition.

She will have to overcome some strong competition if her debut indoor season is to include world gold, however. While not having hit those sorts of heights so far this year, the field does feature four two-metre-plus high jumpers in Yaroslava Mahuchikh, Nadezhda Dubovitskaya, Mirela Demireva and Elena Vallortigara.

Ukraine’s world and Olympic medallist Mahuchikh has the superior lifetime best, her 2.06m in Banska Bystrica last year being the highest indoor jump in the world for nine years and a mark that moved the 20-year-old to equal third on the world indoor all-time list. She was beaten by Patterson in this year’s Banska Bystrica competition after clearing a best of 1.96m but understandably, due to the conflict in her home country, she has not had the opportunity to build on that since.

Like Mahuchikh, Kazakhstan’s Dubovitskaya has jumped 1.96m this year and achieved her Asian outdoor record of 2.00m last summer, while Bulgaria’s 2016 Olympic silver medallist Demireva and Italy’s Vallortigara both managed their respective 2.00m and 2.00m PBs outdoors in 2018.

Montenegro’s Marija Vukovic has also cleared 1.96m this year for an indoor national record just 1cm off her outdoor best, while Britain’s Emily Borthwick has achieved a PB of 1.95m.

Competing on home soil, Serbia’s 16-year-old Angelina Topic will make her senior international debut, the year after finishing sixth at the World Athletics U20 Championships in Nairobi.

Following in the footsteps of her mother Biljana, the 2009 world triple jump bronze medallist, and father Dragutin, the 1997 world indoor high jump bronze medallist, Topic wishes to write her own story in the sport and the next chapter begins in Belgrade.

Jess Whittington for World Athletics