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Women's High Jump PREVIEW

Following her silver medal in Sydney, Hestrie Cloete of South Africa has added both of the World Championships titles in the interim. The South African with the trademark “double windmill” arm motion has put together an enviable season thus far with her clean record in the Golden League series, an overall scorecard of seventeen wins in nineteen competitions, and four marks at 2.00 and better for the year, including a season-best-equalling 2.04 in her Zürich win. 

Looming as Cloete’s top rival is Yelena Slesarenko, who opened her outdoor season by winning the European Cup with the 2.04 which still stands as the co-season leader almost two months later. The Russian has continued on a tear since then, although she did bypass her own national championships, won by another strong medal candidate, Anna Chicherova, the runner-up in last winter’s World Indoor Championships. 

Chicherova’s only two losses this year were handed her by Slesarenko during the indoor season. Since then, she has undertaken a long preparation period, broken after nearly five months at the end of July by winning the Russian title with 1.98 in her first outdoor competition of the season. 

Viktoriya Seryogina, a recent 2.00 jumper, is likely the third Russian entrant, giving that nation a potent trio in the battle for the medals. 

Blanka Vlašić of Croatia, still only twenty years old, has moved solidly into the top echelon with a consistently good season highlighted by a PB 2.03 in Ljubljana. The bronze medallist at last winter’s World Indoor Championships has already competed outdoors twelve times and has consistently produced top results. 

On the other end of the age scale and nearing her thirty-third birthday, Irina Mikhalchenko of Ukraine seems still to be improving, judging from her 2.01 PB in winning this year’s Eberstadt competition.  

The fourth placer at the last two World Championships, Venelina Veneva of Bulgaria, appears high on the year list with her 2.01 victory in the national championships, but she has little to show in the intervening two months. Still, Veneva pulled surprises in both Edmonton and Paris, and should not be overlooked. 

Of the Americans, Amy Acuff moved to the fore with her 2.00 jump in Munich at the beginning of the month, although US Trials champion Tisha Waller (1.98), at age thirty-three, still can come up with a big jump. Their teammate, twenty-year-old Chaunte Howard (1.98), lacks the international experience to rate as a serious threat.  

Of the western Europeans, Spaniards Ruth Beitia (1.96) and Marta Mendía (1.95), plus Belgian heptathlete Tia Hellebaut (1.95), appear to have the best credentials. 

The unfortunate season-ending injury to reigning European champion Kajsa Bergqvist of Sweden at Båstad last month will deprive the competition of one of its top exponents in recent years. 

EG