Leap of faith: Qatar's Mutaz Barshim in action at the World Championships in Beijing yesterday.
With four former winners of this title plus the London 2012 Olympic Games champion, and a clutch of men who have also snared global medals, all lined up to compete in a top quality qualification session this was always going to make for compelling viewing yesterday morning and so it proved.
Throw in too, the odd question mark about the form and fitness of Ukraine's defending champion Bohdan Bondarenko and Qatar's 2015 world leader and 2014 world indoor champion Mutaz Essa Barshim and this was one qualifier not to be missed.
With a total of 41 men split across two pools, the session proved a war of attrition, but Barshim, who has recently suffered a dip in form, and Bondarenko, in his first competition since 25 June following foot and back injuries, both answered any doubts by banking the automatic qualification standard of 2.31m with first time clearances.
Barshim and Bondarenko suffered a minor scare with first time failures at 2.29m, but readjusted to comfortably clear with their second attempts and the pair look in fine fettle ahead of tomorrow’s final.
In a high-class qualification session, nine men successfully cleared the automatic qualification standard, led by home favourite Zhang Guowei, who enjoyed a perfect record up to and including 2.31m and delighted the crowd with his eccentric post-jump celebrations.
The only other man in qualification to boast a 100 per cent was Canada's Olympic and world championship medallist Derek Drouin, who also looks like a solid medal challenger this time around as well, especially in the wake of his Pan American Games win last month.
Other notable automatic qualifiers included, Australia's Brandon Starc who set a PB with his first time clearance at 2.31m and Czech veteran Jaroslav Baba – who twice dodged a bullet with third time clearances at 2.28m and a season's best of 2.31m – to ensure the 2004 Olympic bronze medallist would take his place in a record-breaking sixth World Championship final.
The 2007 World champion Donald Thomas, of The Bahamas, and the USA's 2012 Olympic silver medallist Erik Kynard were among a group of five other men also advanced to Sunday's final with a best of 2.29m.
They were, however, a number of notable qualification victims which included the 2005 and 2011 world champions, Ukraine’s Yuriy Krymarenko and USA’s Jess Williams.
An out-of-sorts 2012 Olympic champion Ivan Ukhov of Russia also failed to make the cut when he was only able to clear a relatively modest 2.26m; while well-known names like Great Britain’s 2012 Olympic Gasmes bronze medallist Robbe Grabarz, Ukraine’s 2014 European silver medallist Andrey Protsenko as well as former world championships medallists Trevor Barry, from The Bahamas, and Poland’s Sylwester Bednarek also could not find their best form and did not progress.
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