15 MAR 2003 General News

Men High Jump Final

Stefan Holm started the day like the favorite he was, went through a rough patch, then rebounded elegantly to become the first Lisbon '01 champion to successfully defend.

The speedy Swede was the only one to clear the first three heights--2.20, 2.25, 2.30--without a miss. When Gennadiy Moroz (Belarus) needed a pair of attempts at that last height and Yuriy Rybakov (Russia) and Dragutin Topic (Serbia & Montenegro) each needed all three, Holm's position looked very solid.

But 2.33 added a new wrinkle. Everybody missed twice, and with Holm first in the order, if he missed, he would have no response should any of the other three get over the bar.

The simplest thing--in theory at least--was not to let that scenario unfold. So he didn't. Slashing at the bar with his typically speedy runup, he planted with his right foot, and although he set the bar slightly alive, it was never in danger of falling.

Rybakov had a similar clearance, but now he would need to clear a seasonal best 2.35. He couldn't, but Holm, the yearly world leader at 2.36, could. Rybakov then saved his last two attempts for misses at 2.37. With the Russian out of the way, the diminutive Holm (1.81), not even 6-feet tall, took one try at 2.40, which would have given him the highest-jump-over-head record.