Prague, Czech RepublicIvan Ukhov seized upon a winning opportunity as the 29th Novinarska Latka High Jump Meeting was drawing to a close early Thursday evening in Prague. The Russian leaped 2.30 on his final attempt at that height to claim victory, and ended the competition with three unsuccessful tries at 2.34.
The Novinarska Latka meeting, literally translated as “Journalist’s Crossbar”, has enjoyed a long history, dating back to 1969 and being designated in 1987 as a competition memoralizing well-known Czech athletics journalist Jan Popper who died in 1986. The traditional event is reputed to be the longest-lived indoor high jump competition with music. The meeting was formerly held in various sports halls of Prague, but last year, former Czech jumper Jan Janku organized the first shopping centre appearance of the fixture.
In securing this win tonight, Ukhov, a former European Junior Champion and last year’s leading indoor jumper with 2.39, posted his seventh result at 2.30 or higher this indoor season, yet amazingly he will not be in Valencia next month for the World Indoor Championships. Such is life in a land rich in high jumpers, as his fourth place with 2.33 in last Sunday’s Russian championships failed to land him a team spot.
If the shoe fits, I’ll jump in it
The 21-year-old is truly the iconoclast of his event. A former discus thrower, the free-spirited Ukhov has previously been spotted competing in sprinting shoes and triple jump shoes. For his win here tonight, he brought long jump shoes for use on the rubber mats which formed the jumping surface at the Metropole Shopping Centre in the Zlicín section in the western region of Prague.
Ukhov’s winning leap was not a complete surprise. His first two attempts showed great promise, and with only Czech Tomás Janku having one last try behind him, the young Russian took it upon himself to ensure that the competition did not end ignominiously with five jumpers jammed together at a less-than-stellar 2.25 height.
But it was a bumpy road for the Russian. He opened with a miss at 2.15, and he needed three tries at 2.25 and 2.30 just to stay alive.
Finishing in a tie for second with first-attempt successes at 2.25 were Czech jumper Jaroslav Bába and Russia’s Andrey Tereshin, the current world indoor silver medallist who already has secured his ticket for Valencia with his second place-finish last Sunday in the Russian Championships.
Andrey Sokolovskyy of Ukraine managed 2.25 on his second attempt and held fourth, while Janku’s 2.25 came on his third try and pushed him down to fifth.
All of the top five jumpers tonight were right-siders, and this was not a coincidence. The spacial requirements dictated by the shopping centre dimensions permitted a long run for those on the right side but a less lengthy run-up for those on the left, who had to start their approach pressed against a stairwell and with no more than eight steps.
As a result, none of the others could manage more than 2.20 using an abbreviated run, as Israel’s Niki Pali took sixth at that height, with earlier misses pushing Mexican Gerardo Martínez and American Jamie Nieto to a seventh-place tie.
Ed Gordon for the IAAF
1. Ukhov (RUS) 2.30 [2.15/2 – 2.20 – 2.25/3 – 2.30/3 – 2.34/xxx]; 2. Bába (CZE) and Tereshin (RUS) 2.25; 4. Sokolovskyy (UKR) 2.25; 5. T Janku (CZE) 2.25; 6. Pali (ISR) 2.20; 7. Martínez (MEX) and Nieto (USA) 2.20; 9. Saman (CZE) 2.15; 10. Hon (CZE) 2.10.