The USA’s Brad Walker had looked serious both in the qualifying and for most of this final until he was sure he had the gold in his possession. It may be partly his nature, but there was another good reason for his caution: “I had a small accident during warm-up yesterday so I wasn’t sure I would be able to compete,” he explained after the poles had been put away.
Injured or not, he was World Indoor champion with a third attempt clearance at 5.80m for a season’s best. In silver was the Gambian-born Swede, Alhaji Jeng, earning his first ever big medal: “I was too fired,” said the Swede who has lived all his life in the Nordic country apart from the first few months of his life. “I did all I could.”
Bronze went to Germany’s Tim Lobinger who must have thought he was in with a shout of regaining the gold he won in 2003 when there were only three men left to contest the medals at 5.70. There his attempt stayed, though, as he failed twice at that height, reserving his third for a shot at 5.75, but hit the bar with his feet on the way up. “The medal is Ok but the result is definitely not,” complained the German. “It is my worst result of the season and enough for a medal. This I did not expect.”
Now it was down to Jeng and Walker to decide the gold. Both went go clear at 5.70, but the Swede was in the lead as Walker had had one failure at his opening height of 5.60. Both passed at 5.75 but at 5.80 it was the American whose nerve held as, at the third time of asking, he cleared and the gold was his.
Despite Walker’s season’s best, Lobinger’s assessment held good as the final failed to ignite when one by one, seasoned competitors fell by the wayside at heights they would normally manage. The first shock was world leader at 5.85, Jeff Hartwig of the USA, failing at his opening height of 5.60. He was to be joined by Mexican Giovanni Lanaro and the Ukraine’s Denys Yurchenko.
By 5.65 only the medallists were left.
So Walker moved up a medal after his silver in the outdoor Worlds last year. But with Jeng’s silver, a change is in the offing as Walker explained: “There’s a new generation of jumpers. With the Australians, Jeng, the Mexican and a couple of the American guys, the competition will help us get higher.”