Talk about rising to the occasion! Producing the performance of her lifetime when it mattered most, Ligia Grozav of Romania won a tense and spirited duel with Iryna Herashchenko to take the World youth High Jump title.
The 17-year-old Romanian arrived in Lille with a 1.80m personal best, on paper enough to realistically aspire to a spot in the final. But she bettered that no once, not twice, but three times to ultimately get the better of Ukrainian Herashchenko, who came to Lille as the world leader at 1.87m.
Herashchenko, a 1.75m jumper in 2009 who improved to 1.87m in Donetsk in mid June, was in clear command of the competition from the outset. Opening at 1.70m, she breezed through 1.75m, 1.79m and 1.82m with first attempt clearances. Grozav too started well, clearing 1.70m, 1.75m, and 1.79m on her first tries, before need two at 1.82m, her first personal best of the later afternoon. Jamaican Chanice Porter on her second, and Germany’s Laura Voss clearing on her third, stayed alive at the height as well.
But it was Grozov who would take control at 1.85m, sailing clear on her first attempt, a success followed by bounds of joy through the infield and on the track before she landed in the arms of her coach.
Herashchenko needed a second try but went clear as well. With Porter and Voss bowing out to finish third and fourth, the battle for gold continued to rage.
The Ukrainian looked better with her first two attempts at 1.87m, but again Grozav rose to the occasion with a third attempt clearance, as did Herashchenko. Neither managed 1.89, leaving the pair tied with three misses apiece, forcing a jump off.
With a dozen jumps to their credit, both were visibly tired by this point, neither coming particularly close to 1.98m and 1.87m. Both produced decent tries at 1.85m but missed. 1.83m proved to be decisive. Herashchenko missed, but Grozav cleared to take the first-ever title in the event for Romania.
“It was a great championships and it was my first international competition,” said Grozav, a 1.75m jumper a year ago. “I’m very happy to win the first medal for Romania.”
Bob Ramsak for the IAAF