Coming hard on the heels of the Banská Bystrica meeting two days ago, and with many pivotal national championships upcoming this weekend, the Brnenská Latka meeting here in Brno was always going have an uphill fight on its hands. Adding to that were three late injury-related cancellations by jumpers having PBs of 2.30 or higher.
Of the twelve competitors who made up the men’s card on Thursday evening, eight had seen a full evening of action only 48 hours earlier in the Slovak city.
But this turned out to be just the right scenario for Brno native Svatoslav Ton to show many of his old neighbours that his knee operation from last spring was successful, as he leaped 2.25 - and barely missed 2.28 - for the win. As one of the four jumpers with fresh legs, Ton also had an insider’s advantage with his hometown appearance.
“These were all of my old friends cheering me on. I felt I knew everyone in the hall tonight, and they were worth another five centimetres to me,” said the affable Ton afterwards.
The 25-year-old Dukla Praha athlete, who has been in the top rank of the Czech Republic’s high jumping corps ever since his silver medal at the 1996 World Junior Championships, found himself ironically having to return to his old style of jumping, the same technique which caused his chronic knee problems over a four-year period.
“The specific kind of surface here, with lots of rubber sheets placed down for the jumpers, meant that I had to go back to a slow but powerful takeoff,” he said. “It’s not the kind of surface I normally have for my training.” Nor is it the kind he will see on Sunday at the Czech national championships in Prague’s Stromovka arena as he attempts to move just three centimetres higher, to 2.28 and a possible ticket to Budapest two weeks later.
“I’ll have to go back to the new, quicker and lighter technique to which I’ve switched by necessity because of my old ‘jumper’s knee’, he said, relishing tonight’s victory with his return to an abandoned style but hoping for greater success this weekend with a new jumping method.
As the competition was in danger of heading to an ignominious finish at 2.22, Ton’s clearance of 2.25 was followed in quick succession by those of Britain’s Ben Challenger - coincidentally the co-silver medal winner with Ton at Sydney in 1996 - and US jumper Terrance Woods. They would eventually be the next two placers at that height, with the American ending up one step higher than the Briton on a misses countback.
Alone at 2.22 and in fourth place was Hungarian László Boros, who was deprived of a would-be PB 2.25 after an extremely narrow miss at that height on his final attempt.
The most often honoured jumper in the field, with three medals in World and European championships, was Staffan Strand. The Swede had only returned to full training a month ago after finally ungoing a long-delayed ankle operation in September. Finding some of the rubber mats not fully anchored in the final stages of his wide approach, Strand was dissatisfied that his 2.15 best for tenth place was not the improvement on his recent Stockholm performance (2.20) he had been seeking.
Winning the women’s competition held earlier in the afternoon was also another Czech jumper returning to her old form after a period of inactivity. Former European indoor silver medallist Zuzana Hlavonová, who had taken a maternity leave two seasons ago after her 1.98 indoor best at the Ghent championships in 2000, actually outdid the men’s competition for quality with her first-attempt 1.95 clearance, after she had clinched the win one height earlier at 1.93.
With the women’s high jump at the Czech nationals scheduled for Saturday, Hlavonová took only one attempt at 1.98 before deciding to quit.
Second place went to Slovakia’s Diana Láznicková in a PB 1.90, the same height attained by Czech jumper Barbora Laláková, who finished third.
1. Ton (CZE) 2.25
2. Woods (USA) 2.25
3. Challenger (GBR) 2.25
4. Boros (HUN) 2.22
5. T Janku (CZE) 2.19
6. Horak (SVK) and Moroz (BLR) 2.19
8. Ar. Zaytsev (BLR) 2.19
9. DeLima (BRA) 2.19
10. Strand (SWE) 2.15
11. Romero (BRA) 2.10
12. Klíma (CZE) 2.00.
1. Hlavonová (CZE) 1.95
2. Láznicková (SVK) 1.90
3. Laláková (CZE) 1.90
4. Janku (CZE) 1.87
5. Straková (CZE) 1.87
6. Moravcová (CZE) 1.80
7. Bodi (HUN) 1.80
8. Horská (SVK), Tománková (CZE), and Srnková (SVK) 1.66
12. Kurcová (CZE) 1.61
13. Maláriková (CZE) 1.61.