Men's high jump trio - Kynard, Bondarenko, Barshim - ahead of their battle in New York (© Victah Sailer)
High jumper Erik Kynard had a message for the media ahead of the adidas Grand Prix in New York, the latest stop in the 2014 IAAF Diamond League series, on Saturday (14).
Please, just let us jump.
In a season that has yet to see its brightest star, Usain Bolt, take to the track instead it has been the weekly entertainment and drama provided by the men's high jump has captivated athletics enthusiasts.
Couple that with it being mid-June and already two jumpers -- Ivan Ukhov of Russia and Mutaz Essa Barshim of Qatar – have already cleared 2.41m, this on the heels of Ukraine's Bodan Bondarenko taking attempts at breaking the world record height of 2.45m set in 1993 by Cuba's Javier Sotomayor at the IAAF World Championships and on four other occasions last summer, as well as at two meetings this summer, and world record mania has reached fever pitch.
It has certainly made for headlines and good promotion of the sport, but Kynard believes it hasn't done the jumpers any favors.
"You guys make it really hard for it to happen, indirectly," said the American, who himself has had a good attempt at a US record of 2.41m in Doha.
"It's as if there is a sense of urgency behind it or it has to go down this year; but I think it will be easier for us if it is just kind of chill and you let us do our thing.
"The pressure is huge for us when we keep having this discussion. Last year, it wasn’t much of a discussion and it might be making the barrier a little tougher because it creates this outside expectation for us.
“It may, in turn, be one of those things that happens at a little meet where a guy has no pressure, feels good and steps up and responds."
Barshim, who won the Diamond League in Rome last week after another tantalizing duel with Bondarenko that saw both men take solid attempts at 2.43m, agreed that trying to assess the exact meet where the world record will be broken is futile.
"You can never predict a world record," the 22-year-old 2014 IAAF World Indoor Championships winner, said. "And we have a few years to jump. It's not like we have to do it this year or next year. We still have five or six years of prime jumping if we are healthy, so there are a lot of chances to take that record."
Take your pick
Bondarenko pointed out that there are many stars that must align, from weather to competition to health.
"We have many good high jumpers so you can see a good show and every competition is one where you can see a good result," commented the Moscow 2013 champion. "I think it can be broken but who will we see broken it this year? Sorry, I don’t know."
Kynard believes when it does happen it will likely happen organically.
"It is definitely the competition," he said. "If you look at the competition this year in comparison to last year or even the years before, there is always one person setting the standard for all of us to follow.
“Last year, Mutaz jumped 2.40m (in Eugene) and then this guy here (Bondarenko) went insane at the World Championships. Everybody's expectations this year are higher.
“The ceiling for what you thought was possible mentally has been raised. When you see a guy do something, it becomes, 'If he can do it, well, I can do it.' It has really made it easier for all of us to reach for new heights,” added Kynard.
For world record holder and London 2012 Olympic Games champion David Rudisha, getting back to his lofty standards of 800m excellence remains a work in progress.
After finishing seventh in 1:44.87 in his 2014 debut in Eugene – his first race in nearly a year after suffering a knee injury – the 25-year-old Kenyan returned to his European base in Tubingen, Germany, where he had some good long runs and two solid track sessions before returning to the US for this race.
"Before Eugene, I told my coach that I wanted to start racing and felt like I was capable of running 1:44, which I did and it showed me where I am at," said Rudisha.
"I love this meet. This is where I ran my fastest American time. Probably tomorrow I am expecting to do 1:43, or better than that, because I want to move forward and take it step by step."
Bowie benefits from Brauman switch
American Tori Bowie is also hoping to continue her progression in the sprints.
The one-time fulltime long jumper made a training camp switch after the indoor season and has been working with Lance Brauman in Florida.
With no expectations and fighting fear, she stunned the field to win the 200m from lane one in Eugene and then did the same in the Rome 100m.
Her goal is to continue riding that wave of success here in New York.
"I have absolutely no expectations in the sprints for this season," she said. "Figuring out my races and enjoying it are my only goals. I just want to go out there and have fun. I want to put it all together and enjoy it."
With strong support from the Caribbean community here, there is no doubt that Jamaican sprinters Nesta Carter, Yohan Blake and Warren Weir will enjoy their surroundings at Icahn Stadium.
Carter, whose season best is 10.02 in the 100m, said he would like to dip under 10 seconds for the first time this season, especially with the Jamaican Trials for the Commonwealth Games two weeks away. Weir too is hoping for a new season's best in the 200m, which stands at 20.31 from his runner-up finish in Doha.
As for Blake, he would not discuss a target time for the race, saying that he, "preferred to let his running speak for itself."
He is, however, looking forward to giving the crowd something to cheer for.
"Sometimes I shut out the crowd just to focus but sometimes you can't help but to hear it in the background," commented Blake. "I think the Jamaican fans will be really good for getting the adrenaline pumping in the body, which is when you tend to do great things."
Joe Battaglia for the IAAF