World indoor high jump champion Woo Sanghyeok (© Getty Images)
Another global high jump final; another shared place on the podium for Gianmarco Tamberi.
This time, however, the great Italian showman had to settle for bronze at the World Athletics Indoor Championships Belgrade 22 rather than gold as Korea’s Woo Sanghyeok stepped into the spotlight – and into the footsteps of the man with whom Tamberi shared Olympic glory in Tokyo seven months ago.
Engagingly generous soul that he is, Tamberi was the first to applaud as Woo swooped from fifth place to snatch the gold with a first-time clearance at 2.34m, a height that proved too far for the 25-year-old’s rivals.
Having missed out on a medal of any description in Tokyo, where he finished fourth, Woo had good reason to fully celebrate his success in becoming the first Korean winner of a world indoor title. He’s also only the second Asian winner of the title after the Qatari Mutaz Barshim, who prevailed in Sopot in 2014.
Tamberi, the 2016 champion, also had reason to congratulate himself on playing such a major part in a gripping contest, having only decided last weekend to shake off the rust of winter training to take a shot at regaining the crown.
Only last month he was enjoying the off-season, stealing the show at the NBA All Star Celebrity basketball match in Cleveland with a stunning put-back slam dunk.
The success of a warm-weather training camp in Mauritius persuaded him to accept an invitation to compete in Belgrade.
For fellow bronze medal winner Hamish Kerr, it was not just a season’s debut indoors but a career competition first. The New Zealander decided to make the trip after jumping 2.30m outdoors in Auckland last month
Like Tamberi, who was fleetingly in the gold medal position as the first man over 2.28m, ‘the Flying Kiwi’ earned his prize with a second-time success at 2.31m.
Switzerland’s Loic Gasch also nailed 2.31m at the second attempt but his clean card up to that height secured the silver. Tamberi needed two shots at 2.24m, while Kerr fluffed his first at the opening height, 2.15m.
Woo, the 2013 world U18 champion, started the competition as the clear favourite with an unbeaten record for the season and a clear spot at the top of the world list courtesy of a 2.36m jump at Hustopece in the Czech Republic, backed up with a 2.35m success in Banska Bystrica.
He had two attempts at 2.37m in the Stark Arena before settling for his gold medal winning jump.
Poor Thiago Moura finished empty handed, despite nailing 2.31m at the second time of asking. It was a South American indoor record for the Brazilian, and a nine-centimetre indoor PB, but with four first-time failures in all, he had to be content with fifth place.
The only other finalist to clear 2.28m was Thomas Carmoy, the Belgian finishing sixth.
Simon Turnbull for World Athletics
|MEN'S HIGH JUMP MEDALLISTS
|Woo Sanghyeok 🇰🇷 KOR
|Loic Gasch 🇨🇭 SUI
|Gianmarco Tamberi 🇮🇹 ITA
|Hamish Kerr 🇳🇿 NZL