Mutaz Essa Barshim clears 2.40m at the 2015 Banska Bystrica high jump meeting (© organisers / Miroslava Chabadova)
Mutaz Essa Barshim improved his own Asian record by two centimetres to 2.40m at the Banskobystrická latka 2015 high jump competition in the Slovakian town of Banska Bystrica on Wednesday (4).
Into the bargain, it was the best mark in the world this year, a meeting record, and the Qatari joins a select group of jumpers who have cleared 2.40m or better indoors, a club which now has eight members.
His previous Asian indoor record had been 2.38m, set when winning at the 2014 IAAF World Indoor Championships.
Barshim, who holds the Asian outdoor record with 2.43m, was competing in the first of four indoor meetings in the next three weeks, and had arrived in Banska Bystrica saying only that he wanted to enjoy himself at his first competition of the year.
"To be honest, I was initially going to rest a lot during the indoor season but I found that too boring and I only started training a couple of months ago, a short time after the IAAF World Athlete of The Year Gala last November," Barshim had commented with his cheery relaxed demeanour earlier in the day.
His feats certainly brought a smile to each of the 1000 faces in the packed Stiavnickach sports hall.
His next competition will be over the border in Trinec, Czech Republic, on Sunday, followed by events in Ireland and Sweden.
There were still five men in the competition on Wednesday when the bar was raised to what was then a world-leading height of 2.35m, which makes it the deepest competition by far this year and a statistic that might possibly survive to the end of the indoor season.
Barshim sailed clear at his second attempt and nobody else could join him, although Ivan Ukhov’s first two attempts at the height were good efforts.
However, the Olympic champion – a winner in Banska Bystrica for three consecutive years from 2010-12 and the former meeting record-holder at 2.38m – had to settle for third place on this occasion as the Russian's best clearance was at 2.31m. He then elected to pass 2.33m; a height which Ukraine’s European silver medallist Andriy Protsenko, who had been struggling to find his rhythm earlier in the evening, cleared on his second attempt.
Among the quintet still in the competition at 2.35m was local hero Matus Bubenik, who cleared a personal best of 2.31m and garnered the biggest cheers of the night after Barshim.
After two failures at 2.33m, Bubenik had a final unsuccessful attempt at an absolute Slovak record of 2.35m.
Italy’s Marco Fassinotti, the former world leader prior to Wednesday with 2.34m, unfortunately had to withdraw from the competition before it got underway, having slightly twisted his left ankle while warming up.
Trost comes up trumps
However, another Italian fared much better in the women’s contest as the former world youth and junior champion Alessia Trost took the honours when she was the only jumper over 1.96m.
Five women – half of the original 10-woman field – were actually still in the competition when the bar was raised to 1.96m.
Spain’s two-time European champion Ruth Beitia – who had struggled at the preceding height of 1.94m and only got it right at the third time of asking – and Russia’s world champion Svetlana Shkolina both elected to pass that height.
In their absence, Trost got over 1.96m on her second attempt while Croatia’s Ana Simic and Russia’s world indoor champion Mariya Kuchina brought the bar down three times and were eliminated.
At 1.98m, Trost, Shkolina and Beitia, in that order, all failed three times; although the trio all went close with their third attempts.
The Udine university student, jumping to the global hit Tsunami by Dvbbs and Borgeous, extended her winning streak to three competitions this winter.
In joint second place, with clean cards all the way up to and including 1.94m, were Simic and Shkolina, the latter having her first international competition since the IAAF Diamond League final in Brussels in September 2013, having missed the whole of last year due to injury.
Phil Minshull for the IAAF