Ivan Ukhov clears 2.41m to win the high jump at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Doha (© Deca Text & Bild)
Ivan Ukhov, Russia’s Olympic high jump champion, gave another demonstration of his startling ability as he rose above the challenge of three other hugely talented athletes who have helped re-energise the event in the past few years to win with an effort of 2.41m.
It was a 2014 world outdoor lead, an IAAF Diamond League record and, of course, a meeting record for the opening IAAF Diamond League event of the season in Doha, Qatar, on Friday (9).
Ukhov, whose indoor clearance of 2.42m in February was a height only Cuba’s world record-holder Javier Sotomayor has ever bettered, was one of four men left as the bar reached 2.33m, along with USA’s Olympic silver medallist Erik Kynard and two of the men who shared bronze at the London 2012 Games, home jumper Mutaz Barshim, who has since won at the 2014 World Indoor Championships, and Canada’s Derek Drouin.
Drouin was the first to drop out after three failures at 2.39m, with Barshim soon joining him on the sidelines after also failing to negotiate the same height.
By that time, Kynard, who had equalled his personal best with 2.37m, had elected to move up to a US record height of 2.41m after two failures at 2.39m.
Ukhov was the only man who had cleared 2.39m, having moved up to that height after one failure at 2.37m.
The gamble paid off, and when Kynard narrowly failed in his single attempt at 2.41m, somersaulting in the pit in frustration, the Russian was left victorious and had the bar moved up to what would be a European record of 2.43m.
However, after one abortive attempt at the height, he called it a night. But it had been quite a night, especially in the wake of his defeat by Barshim at the 2014 World Indoor Championships exactly two months ago, after an otherwise phenomenal indoor season.
Out of focus
Out of focus
“I wanted to continue jumping but I could not focus anymore,” reflected Ukhov before dashing off to catch a plane to Tokyo where he will jump against Ukraine’s 2013 world champion Bohdan Bondarenko.
It could even be said to be the greatest high jump competition ever as never before had four men outdoors jumped 2.37m or higher in the same competition.
Bahrain’s Nigerian-born Kemi Adekoya produced one of the surprises of the meeting in what was her first race since being cleared for her adopted country as she held off all challengers from lane one to win the women’s 400m hurdles in 54.59, the fastest time this year.
It was also a national record for the 21-year-old hurdler, whose previous best had stood at 55.30.
As the field reached the last set of hurdles it seemed as if the newcomer was about to pay for her early efforts as Jamaica’s Kaliese Spencer in lane three appeared ready to pass her, but she accelerated again over the final 30 metres to cross as a clear winner, staggering slightly after the line before recovering sufficiently to sling her victory bouquet of flowers into the crowd.
Spencer was second in 55.07, with third place going to Great Britain’s Eilidh Child in 55.43, who finished clear of the USA’s former world champion, Lashinda Demus.
Adekoya, who has been training all winter in Bahrain, said: “I swear I did not expect to win. There are so many great professional athletes running here and I was so scared to run against them. I can tell you I really pushed like never before. And I am ready to show even more of it.
“I am aiming at 53 seconds now and I know I am able to do it. It will surely happen. The heat was no problem for me and I hope that I will fight for the Diamond Trophy also at later meetings,” she added.
Mike Rowbottom for the IAAF