25 FEB 2014 Report Prague, Czech Republic

Ukhov's stock continues to rise as the Russian jumps 2.42m in Prague

Ivan Ukhov jumping at the 2014 Prague indoor meeting (Praha Indoor 2014 / Pavel Lebeda)Ivan Ukhov jumping at the 2014 Prague indoor meeting (Praha Indoor 2014 / Pavel Lebeda) © Copyright

Big-time indoor athletics returned to the Czech capital Prague for the first time in five years and high jumpers stole the show at the 02 Arena, with Ivan Ukhov jumping an absolute Russian record and 2014 world-leading height of 2.42m on Tuesday (25).

It was a soaring clearance, achieved on his first attempt, with daylight between Ukhov’s torso and the bar.

Only one man in history has gone higher than Ukhov, under any conditions, that man being the Cuban legend Javier Sotomayor. After his winning jump in the Czech capital, the London 2012 Olympic Games champion tried to improve Javier Sotomayor’s world indoor record of 2.43m which has been on the books since 1989.

In truth, none of Ukhov’s three attempts at 2.44m at the venue which will stage the 2015 European Athletics Indoor Championships were particularly close but he has been unbeatable this winter and Prague was his seventh straight win indoors, all of them at 2.36m or higher.

Having tied the European record, he is now, even more than before, the overwhelming favourite for the gold medal at the IAAF World Indoor Championships in the Polish city of Sopot next month.

“Actually, Ivan was a little annoyed because he wanted to extend his run up (at 2.44m) but he was not allowed. We really believed he was in shape to achieve 2.44m. On the other hand, it means that we can save some energy for (the World Indoor Championships in) Sopot,” said Ukhov’s coach and former Olympic champion Sergey Klyugin.

Ukhov’s compatriot Aleksey Dmitrik was second with 2.33m, and attempted 2.42m as the Russian pair decided between themselves to go straight up to the spectacular height in the special four-man competition.

Victory and tears for Vlasic

The past seven months since she succumbed to her latest injury have been testing times for Blanka Vlasic but the former two-time world champion, both indoors and outdoors, showed that she is still a force to be reckoned with, and now believes she can be a medal contender again in Sopot, after her good clearance at 2.00m.

“I’m so happy. I know I’ve not jumped enough and my jumping isn’t stable. I’m still not in good shape. From being possible an also-ran in Sopot to now being able to be considered a medal contender is quite something,” said the emotional Vlasic, who sat sobbing on the high jump mat after her outstanding jump.

“My first two jumps at two metres were not so good so I just looked at my coach and he told me to calm down, not run so fast at the start of the run up, and I was a good student… this time,” she joked.

Triple jumper Pedro Pablo Pichardo did his best to steal the spotlight from the high jumpers as he bounded out to a world-leading 17.32m in the Cuban’s first ever indoor competition.

Pichardo, the 2012 World Junior Championships winner and still only 20, has already jumped a huge 17.76m outdoors on home soil in Havana this year and his silver medal last summer at the 2013 IAAF World Championships in Moscow proved, without a doubt, that he is the latest model off the production line for top-class Cuban triple jumpers.

It was a Cuban one-two in Prague, which is also a possibility in Sopot, as Ernesto Reve jumped 17.05m in what was his first indoor competition also.

Collins continues to turn back the clock

At the other end of the age scale to the youthful Pichardo, the seemingly ageless Kim Collins provided arguably the best performance on the track when he blasted his way to a 60m victory in a personal best and world masters best of 6.49, just 0.02 away from the 2014 world lead.

Collins, now 37, remarkably had the slowest reaction time of the eight finalists, but edged in front of Dwain Chambers in the final 10 metres, with the fast-starting Briton second in a season's best of 6.52.

“And I still think I have the possibility of improving more, even though I’m almost 38. It’s not about age, it’s about training hard, and I still have the energy and motivation to do that,” said the erudite and popular Collins.

The women’s 60m went to Gabon’s Ruddy Zang Milama in 7.17.

German Lauro made an impressive start to his 2014 campaign, the Argentinian shot putter improving his own Area indoor record by more than half a metre when he sent his implement out to 21.04m with his second effort.

"Training has been going very well this winter, no more problems with my back like I had before the World Championships last summer. However, this result was rather a shock, I was expecting something around 20.50, or like that," said the surprised Lauro, who finished sixth in Istanbul two years ago for his country's best ever result at the IAAF World Indoor Championships.

Great Britain’s Tiffany Porter won the women’s 60m hurdles in 7.91 to move up to equal second on the 2014 world list while Dayron Robles showed signs of his old self when he sped over the barriers in 7.51 to become the third-fastest man in the world this year.

Maslak extends his range

The 500m is rarely contested but Czech Republic’s 2012 European 400m champion Pawel Maslak and ran a continental best of 1:00.36, the third fastest performance ever.

Great Britain’s 2011 European indoor 800m champion Jenny Meadows looked sharp when winning over four laps of the track, taking over the lead just before the bell before crossing the line in a season’s best of 2:01.67.

Ethiopia’s Dawit Seyaum, last year’s World Youth Championships 1500m silver medallist and still just 17, made a winning indoor debut over 1500m in 4:09.08, just 0.08 outside her outdoor best last summer, set when winning the African junior title.

Jamaica’s Edino Steele ran a sparkling personal best of 46.11 to win the 400m, leaving Costa Rica’s reigning world indoor champion Nery Brenes a distant second in 46.53

Local star and 2012 European outdoor champion Jirina Svobodova performed in front of only a handful of spectators as the women’s pole vault was held before the main competition got underway but cleared 4.62m on her second attempt before three failures at a Czech record of 4.72m.

Phil Minshull for the IAAF