Ivan Ukhov of Russia celebrates after winning the gold medal in the Men's High Jump Final on Day 11 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at Olympic Stadium on August 7, 2012 (Getty Images) © Copyright
Premises of a champion in the making had been seen when Ukhov won a very high quality Russian national championships with a new outdoor personal best 2.39m, the world’s best performance of the year.
Tonight, it took Ukhov a first-round 2.38m clearance to secure gold, just one centimetre off Charles Austin’s Olympic record of 1996 and the equal second highest ever recorded in the history of the Olympic Games.
"When I came to the stadium this morning, I just wanted to jump," Ukhov explained. "After the first jump, it came very easy for me. I have not seen my wife and daughter for two months. I will call her, and my wife, and grandmother. I will catch the first plane back because I'm missing them."
In a competition which saw the early demise of defending Olympic champion Andrey Silnov and the reigning Daegu World champion Jesse Williams as early as 2.29m, eight men were still in contention as the bar was raised at 2.33m but only two, Ukhov and eventual silver medal winner Erik Kynard sailed over.
The bar moved at 2.36m which proved too high for the 21-year-old American who failed his first attempt before deciding to pass at what would have improved his personal best by 2 centimetres. Next up, Ukhov cleared.
In a desperate attempt to snatch gold from the Russian, Kynard passed to the next height but there again 2.38m proved impossible to master. Next up, Ukhov cleared with his first attempt, again.
Kynard passed again his final attempt and the bar moved to 2.40m. As expected he was unable to clear but having already secured the silver, Kynard became the first American to medal in the men’s High Jump since Athens 2004.
Kynard who was wearing stars and stripes socks declared: "I would have liked to win, I didn't, but it felt good. It was all right. It was the most humbling and greatest defeat I have ever had. Actually, I won't say defeat, it was the greatest loss I have ever had."
"I'm young, I'll be around for a while, I'm blessed and I did my best. I've come a long way and I'm just 21 years old."
For the second time in the history of the Olympic Games – the last time was 20 years ago - three men will stand on the lowest step of the podium and share the bronze medal having cleared 2.29m the first time of asking and having no previous failure on their cards.
To the delight of the 80,000 spectators Great Britain’s Robert Grabarz who had improved his personal best to 2.36m earlier this year was one of the three bronze medallists alongside former World Junior champion Mutaz Essa Barshim of Qatar and Derek Drouin of Canada.
After a superb first half of the season one may have expected Grabarz to be disappointed with the minor medal but he declared: "A bronze medal, I'm over the moon. If someone had said I'd get a medal at the 2012 Olympics I would not have believed it.
"That I've got a bronze medal is incredible. I've come from nowhere. Who is this kid with a medal round his neck? It all seems slightly surreal. I knew I had the talent to achieve it but to make it true is incredible, it hasn't sunk in."
Barshim’s bronze equals his country’s best ever placing and came as a pleasant surprise for the youngest man in the field who was in fact competing with an injury.
"I was not sure when I came here (to London) because I was injured," he confessed. "and in qualifying I did not do very well. But I tried to stay calm. My injury was in my spinal chord, it was a stress fracture and it was serious. I'm not really fit now. I'm OK - 85%.
"This bronze is better than a gold medal. I am very proud and I feel very excited."
The only slight disappointment tonight was that Ukhov, who is now the fifth Russian ever to win the High Jump Olympic gold medal, did not take his remaining attempts at the would-be Olympic record 2.40 but he revealed that misplacing his vest and bib was a distraction too many.
"I kept jumping higher, but then at the 2.33m bar I could not find my T-shirt with my bib, and Andrey had to lend me his.
"I am grateful to the judges that gave me time to look for the T-shirt.
"The T-shirt distracted me, and the medal ceremony, and the camera so I decided to stop. I could have jumped even higher at 2.40m."
Laura Arcoleo for the IAAF
1999 Women 60m heats