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Men’s High Jump PREVIEW

Having finished fourth four years ago, Sweden’s Stefan Holm will start as favourite for the men’s High Jump. Not only is he the World leader for 2004 – he set a personal best of 2.36m in Eberstadt on 18 July – but he has remained unbeaten all season. His consistency speaks for itself – he has jumped above 2.30m in more than 70 meetings since 1997, and is unbeaten now in 17 finals.

Three times the World Indoor champion, he was denied a gold medal in the World Championships last summer only by South Africa’s Jacques Freitag. Should he win in Athens he will go one better than his great countryman Patrik Sjoberg. The long haired Swede won three Olympic medals but none of them gold, taking silver in 1984 and 1992, and bronze in 1988. At 1.81m tall, Holm would also be one of the shortest High Jump champions in Olympic history.

On performances alone, Holm’s closest challenger could be Ukraine’s Andrey Sokolovskiy who leapt 2.35 in June and has cleared 2.30 on three other occasions. Poland’s Grzegorz Sposob has also been showing good form, leaping 2.34 at the beginning of June and clearing 2.30 at a rainy meeting in Sweden recently when he narrowly lost to Holm.

The World champion Freitag returned to form after a serious ankle injury on 13 July, leaping 2.34 in Salamanca – the site of Cuban Javier Sotomayor’s legendary 2.45 World record – having only managed 2.20 in Iraklion just nine days earlier. He went on to win the High Jump Gala at Bastad with 2.31, beating Holm’s teammate Steffan Strand in the process.

It’s worth noting that the Olympic gold has not been won with less than 2.34 since Montreal in 1976, and it’s taken at least 2.31 to win a medal. Other contenders in that kind of form this year include the Czech trio of Jaroslav Baba, Svatoslav Ton and Tomas Janku, who all have 2.33 to their name; USA’s Jamie Nieto (2.33) and Andra Manson (2.32); and Russia’s 1999 World champion Vyacheslav Voronin, who leapt 2.31 at the end of May.

Russia’s reigning Olympic champion Sergey Klyugin is not in contention, but Yaroslav Rybakov and Pyotr Braiko will be hoping to jump in his footsteps. Both have cleared 2.30 this year.

MB