Ivan Ukhov rises to 2.39m at the 2012 Russian Championships (Alex Kiselev/sportfoto.ru) © Copyright
In 2009, for example, he won the European indoor title but finished just 10th at the World Championships that summer. The following year he struck gold at the World Indoors, but had to settle for silver at the European Championships. Then just last year he leapt 2.38m to defend his European indoor title, but could finish no higher than fifth at the World Championships.
This year, however, has been different. Ukhov finished third at the World Indoors and took the national indoor title with 2.34m – his lowest indoor season’s best since his junior years. After a 2.31m outdoor debut for fourth place in Rome, he seems to have timed his peak to perfection, clearing 2.37m in Opole, winning in Turin, and more recently won an extremely high-quality competition at the Russian Championships with an outdoor best of 2.39m – just one centimetre shy of his national indoor record.
Still, his past record at outdoor championships makes Ukhov just a tentative favourite in what is otherwise an open year for the event. His Russian team-mates are just as capable of landing victory in London. Defending Olympic champion Andrey Silnov cleared 2.37m to finish second to Ukhov at the Russian Championships, while 2010 European champion Alexander Shustov was third with 2.35m to book his place on the team.
World champion Jesse Williams almost missed out on making the Olympic team after finishing fourth at the US Trials, but gained selection as one of the athletes who finished ahead of him did not have the 'A’ standard. That blip aside, the 28-year-old has been in good form, leaping a season’s best of 2.36m in New York, finishing second in Doha and Rome, and winning more recently in Monaco.
The host nation will have high hopes for Robbie Grabarz, who recently won the European title in Helsinki. The 24-year-old Briton has enjoyed a huge breakthrough this year and set a lifetime best of 2.36m in New York, having won the Rome Diamond League meeting in May. He also cleared 2.33m, losing only on countback to Williams.
Young Qatari Mutaz Essa Barshim appears to be hitting top form at the right time, going from 2.30m to 2.31m to 2.33m across three competitions in July.
Trevor Barry of the Bahamas took a surprise bronze in Daegu last year, and with his habit of producing his best jumps at championships he will once again he a danger.
Canadian duo Michael Mason and Derek Drouin have also been in top form, while young Italian Gianmarco Tamberi is on the up after setting a big PB of 2.31m to win his national championships.
Also keep an eye out for Dragutin Topic. The Serbian was an outstanding junior and set a world junior record of 2.37m at the World Junior Championships in 1990 – the same year he won the senior European title. Now aged 41, Topic is still breaking records and earlier this year set a world M40 best of 2.28m. London will be his sixth Olympics – a record-equalling appearance for a male track and field athlete.
Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF
2006 Evergreen Mutola