In Rome a few days ago, one of the questions posed to Mutaz Essa Barshim was about his health and the lack of heights coming close to those he produced back in 2014, when he came within two centimetres of Javier Sotomayor’s long-standing world high jump record of 2.45m.
The Qatari, who had been struggling with various niggling injuries for most of last season, confessed that heights weren’t a priority in an Olympic year but, in the end, the crowd at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Birmingham on Sunday certainly didn’t have to settle for a second-rate contest.
Having only finished a disappointing sixth in the Italian capital with 2.27m, Barshim produced a world-leading 2.37m clearance, his best result for more than a year.
Olympic silver medallist Erik Kynard of the US pushed him all the way after taking the lead at 2.35m with a first-time clearance, having to gamble by going for broke at this height after two failures at 2.33m, while Barshim needed two attempts.
But Barshim was the confirmed winner after Kynard had two failures at 2.37m and one at 2.40m. Barshim had two failures at 2.40m and then audaciously had the bar raised to what would have been an Asian record of 2.44m, but also failed at the height.
China’s Zhang Guowei jumped 2.32m to finish third.
Seeing Barshim attack those heights with the confidence he showed two seasons ago has just made Olympic year that little bit more interesting in this discipline.
Britain’s Greg Rutherford, another 2012 Olympic champion, was beaten in the long jump for the first time since last July.
He said after his jump of 8.17 left him fifth, with American Marquise Goodwin winning comfortably with a mark of 8.42, that he was struggling with a “mild neck injury” from the previous round in Rome last week.
“We have tried to get it 100 percent ready in time. Sadly I have made it worse on the first landing and I am currently unable to move my neck,” he said. “The doctor thinks it is a bad whiplash but it won’t affect my Olympic bid. I am positive the British Athletics medical staff will be able to fix it over the next week.”
Canadian Andre de Grasse secured victory and 10 Diamond Race points in the 200m thanks to a season’s best of 20.16, one hundredth ahead of Diamond Race leader Alonso Edward.
In the field, Cuban Yarisley Silva broke the Diamond League pole vault record thanks to the best clearance of the year — 4.84m. That gave her victory over Diamond Race leader Katerina Stefanidi of Greece, who cleared a personal best height of 4.77m, beating Nicole Buchler of Switzerland on countback.
The women’s 5000m came down to a sprint finish, where Vivian Cheruiyot out leaned compatriot Mercy Cherono, the duo clocking 15.12.79 and 15.12.85 respectively.
In the women’s javelin, Latvian Madara Palameika took the lead in the Diamond Race, winning with a season’s best of 65.68m. Briton Goldie Sayers (Mark Roberson) continued her Rio preparations with a 57.08m performance down in ninth. In the men’s discus, Piotr Malachowski threw 67.50m to wrap up victory .
In the women’s 1500m development race, the in-form Sarah McDonald took up the running when the pacemaker stepped off and bagged herself a well-earned victory in a personal best of 4.07.18, inside the European Championship qualifying standard.
(With inputs from IAAF)
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