Yulimar Rojas and Mondo Duplantis (© Dan Vernon)
As this extraordinary year draws to a close, we look back at the key moments of 2020 in each area of the sport. The series continues today with a review of the jumping disciplines.
Men’s high jump
While Covid-19 seems to have impacted this event in a big way, performance levels were already down before the pandemic struck.
Five athletes shared an indoor world lead of 2.33m earlier in the year, the lowest world indoor lead in 37 years. Outdoors, only one jumper, 22-year-old Maksim Nedasekau from Belarus, jumped 2.33m – the lowest world lead for 39 years.
Indoors Britain’s Tom Gale jumped well, winning two big Czech meetings and clearing 2.30m at three successive outings, topped by a 2.33m personal best in Hustopeče. Cuban Luis Zayas won the third big indoor meet in Slovakia in Banská Bystrica with a 2.33m personal best. Bahamian Jamal Wilson also set a 2.33m PB for second place at that same meet.
The two other jumpers over 2.33m indoors were USA’s Darryl Sullivan and Russia’s Ilya Ivanyuk.
Women’s high jump
This event has belonged to Mariya Lasitskene for some years now and 2020 looked to be the same as she opened with 2.04m and 2.05m in early February. The three-time world outdoor and two-time world indoor champion looked well on her way to this year securing the sole major title – the Olympics – she still was missing.
But with no Olympics, that dream had to be postponed and outdoors she only had a couple of national competitions in September which she won comfortably at 1.92m and 1.97m.
The international outdoor scene was instead dominated by Lasitskene’s two toughest challengers last year, Ukraine’s Yuliya Levchenko and Yaroslava Mahuchikh, the 2017 and 2019 world silver medallists respectively.
The young Ukrainians both cleared 2.00m once, never lost to anyone else and occupied the top two places in Monaco, Bydgoszcz, Stockholm, Dessau and Rome with Levchenko prevailing in their head-to-head record, 3-2.
Australias’s 2013 world U18 champion Eleanor Patterson displayed her best ever jumping in January and February, improving her seven-year-old PB by three centimetres with a national record of 1.99m. She passed on the European season where her compatriot Nicola McDermott instead impressed with consistent jumping, including a 1.98m PB.
Conspicuously, the top US jumpers were nowhere to be seen outdoors in 2020. The top US mark this year was 1.85m by 16-year-old high schooler Alyssa Jones.
Men’s pole vault
Despite the oddness of 2020, it was a good season for men’s pole vault – mainly thanks to Mondo Duplantis.
The super Swede was in terrific form, setting two world records during the indoor season. The 21-year-old won all of his 16 competitions in 2020 and cleared 6.00m or higher on 10 occasions, tying Sergey Bubka’s 1991 record for the most six-metre competitions in one season.
Following a 6.00m national indoor record in Düsseldorf in February in his first competition of the year, Duplantis’s first world record came in Toruń four days later. He cleared 6.17m on his second attempt to surpass Renaud Lavillenie’s 6.16m from 2014. Exactly one week later, the Swede added one centimetre to his record with a first-time clearance of 6.18m in Glasgow.
Duplantis has now achieved 18 clearances at 6.00m or higher, putting him third on the list of history’s most prolific six-metre vaulters, behind Sergey Bubka (46) and Renaud Lavillenie (20).
Two-time world champion Sam Kendricks was the other vaulter over six metres in 2020. He did it both indoors and outdoors, setting a North American indoor record of 6.01m in Rouen in February.
Women’s pole vault
The 2019 World Championships final had been the best ever competition in terms of depth with 4.80m necessary for a top-six finish. The 2020 indoor season strengthened the sense that the Olympic outdoor season would see the exclusive five-metre barrier become more commonplace. World gold and silver medallists Anzhelika Sidorova and Sandi Morris were especially impressive indoors as both had two 4.90m+ meets and another two at 4.80m+.
Then of course the outdoor season became very different and experienced vaulters like Katerina Stefanidi, Jenn Suhr and Yarisley Silva decided to skip it. But despite these absentees and the dearth of opportunities for direct international encounters, there was still quality vaulting.
USA’s Katie Nageotte was one of the top performers in the discipline. Within just three weeks she put together five meets at 4.70m, 4.81m, 4.83m, 4.71m and 4.92m. The final mark elevated the 29-year-old to sixth on the world outdoor all-time list.
Having enjoyed some success earlier in her career, taking world U18 silver in 2009, Sweden’s Michaela Meijer had often found herself in the shadow of compatriot Angelica Bengtsson. But on 1 August, two days after turning 27, Meijer reached a new level – quite literally. She took the national record from Bengtsson and advanced to equal 11th on the world all-time by clearing 4.83m, a PB by 11 centimetres.
Men’s long jump
The best jump of 2020 came during the indoor season, before the pandemic really took hold.
Cuba’s world indoor champion Juan Miguel Echevarria leapt 8.41m at the World Athletics Indoor Tour meeting in Madrid. He jumped 8.08m one week later in Ulsteinvik and then had just one competition outdoors, winning the Cuban title with 8.25m.
China’s 2015 world bronze medallist Wang Jianan produced the best jump outdoors, winning the Chinese title with 8.36m in Shaoxing in September. It’s the shortest world lead since Greg Rutherford’s 8.35m in 2012.
China’s 2016 world indoor bronze medallist Huang Changzhou jumped 8.33m for second place at the Chinese Championships, while Japan’s world U20 champion Yuki Hashioka jumped 8.29m in September.
World champion Tajay Gayle stayed home most of the season, but jumped a wind-assisted 8.52m in July in Kingston. Finland’s Kristian Pulli, meanwhile, made a breakthrough to set a national record of 8.27m in June.
Women’s long jump
After her extraordinary 2019 season in which she was undefeated, became world champion, and had seven meetings at 7.00m or beyond, Germany’s Malaika Mihambo had planned a restart of her career under the guidance of Carl Lewis in the USA.
Those plans had to be scrapped due to the pandemic, but Mihambo still produced the only seven-metre jumps in 2020: a 7.07m leap indoors and a 7.03m effort outdoors. And in most of her competitions this year, she competed off a shortened approach.
In terms of consistency, world silver medallist Maryna Bekh-Romanchuk was the top jumper. The Ukrainian won four indoor meetings, all with marks between 6.90m and 6.96m. Outdoors, all eight of her competitions ranked among the top 20 performances of the year.
Sweden’s Khaddi Sagnia also showed great consistency. Sagnia had just two losses, which came at the Wanda Diamond League meetings in Stockholm and Doha where Bekh-Romanchuk on both occasions managed to squeeze by on her last attempt.
Italy’s Larissa Iapichino at age 18 improved to 6.80m to further close in on her mother Fiona May, who was the 1988 world U20 champion before going on to amass seven senior global medals, including three golds.
The most successful long jumpers in recent years – Brittney Reese and Ivana Spanovic – focused on training in 2020. Reese didn’t jump at all while Spanovic had one 6.80m outing.
Men’s triple jump
World bronze medallist Hugues Fabrice Zango continued his rise to the top of men’s triple jumping in 2020. The Burkinabe jumper won seven of his eight competitions this year, and his 17.77m African indoor record from February ended up being the top mark of the entire year.
Outdoors the 27-year-old won the Gyulai Memorial in August and then suffered his only loss of the season in Ostrava to USA’s multiple world and Olympic champion Christian Taylor, 17.46m to 17.42m. Taylor, now 30, also won in Berlin in September with 17.57m, an outdoor world lead.
Portugal’s two-time world silver medallist Pedro Pablo Pichardo started his outdoor campaign with a wind-aided 17.40m in Lisbon in July, but didn’t fully get into the groove and finished third at the Gyulai Memorial (17.28m) and fourth in Ostrava (16.88m). Pablo Torrijos set Spanish records both indoors (17.18m) and outdoors (17.09m).
Women’s triple jump
Venezuela’s Yulimar Rojas was a surprise winner at the 2016 World Indoor Championships but in recent years she has gradually become the world’s most dominant triple jumper.
Rojas started her 2020 campaign where she had ended 2019. First she became the eighth woman to jump beyond 15 metres indoors, leaping 15.03m in Metz. Just 12 days later, at the World Athletics Indoor Tour meeting in Madrid, Rojas improved another 40 centimetres to break the 16-year-old world indoor record by seven centimetres – a performance that eventually led to her being crowned the World Female Athlete of the Year.
Making 15.43m look easy.— World Athletics (@WorldAthletics) February 21, 2020
Yulimar Rojas in full flow on her way to breaking the triple jump world indoor record🤩
Even so, her 15.43m effort didn’t look like a ‘perfect’ jump, so the long-standing outdoor world record of 15.50m looked to be living on borrowed time. But then Covid-19 struck, the World Indoors were cancelled and Spain – where Rojas is based – went into lockdown, which also made it difficult for Rojas to train to her usual standard.
Nevertheless, Rojas returned to action for a couple of meetings in the second part of the outdoor season, winning at the Wanda Diamond League meeting in Monaco and leaping a world-leading 14.71m in Castellon.
Apart from the indoor exploits of Rojas, 2020 was something of an off-year for triple jumping as just 22 women jumped beyond 14 metres, three of whom bettered 14.50m. By comparison, 2019 had 41 14-metre jumpers and 11 women beyond 14.50m.
Mirko Jalava (men’s disciplines) and A Lennart Julin (women’s disciplines) for World Athletics