Another 2.00m clearance for Anna Chicherova, this time in Antwerp (Nadia Verhoft) © Copyright
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Chicherova scales 2.00m in Antwerp, Hellebaut returns with 1.95m

Antwerp, BelgiumWorld champion Anna Chicherova’s 2.00m clearance at the High Jump Gala in Antwerp on Saturday (28) night overshadowed the return of Olympic High Jump Champion Tia Hellebaut.

Chicherova’s clearance equaled the season’s best performance – also set by the Russia- while Hellebaut impressed with a 1.95m effort in front of a home crowd in her first competition since July 2010.

Narrow misses for Chicherova at 2.02m

When she finished fifth at the 2010 European Championships in Barcelona Hellebaut was already pregnant. She then stopped competing to give birth to her second daughter Saartje but resumed training hardly two months later. The Olympic Champion received massive support from her fans at her first appearance since 2010. Hellebaut showed guts and confidence with first attempt clearances at 1.80m, 1.85m, 1.89m, 1.92m and 1.95m, thus qualifying for the Olympic Games.

She had two honest attempts at 1.98m and left the arena with huge satisfaction. “It was my goal to jump 1.95m today and I succeeded. I know that there is more to come in the next weeks when I will compete in Arnstadt, in Banska Bystrica, in Eaubonne and in Stockholm.”

Chicherova meanwhile was very much in control of the competition and skipped bars at 1.92m and at 1.98m. She registered her first foul at 2.00m, but sailed over on her second attempt. She then had three narrow misses at 2.02m.

“It is always rewarding to jump 2.00m and I was glad to be invited at this comeback meeting for Tia Hellebaut who proved strong today,” Chicherova said.

Ebba Jungmark from Sweden finished in third with 1.92m.

Chicherova excited about attacking the World Record

Chicherova dominated the Women’s High Jump throughout 2011. But she keeps off the pressure of being the big favourite to become the next Olympic champion.

“It’s a matter of thinking about the right things and to concentrate on yourself. I keep working hard and I try to resolve a few technical issues. Of course I dream of winning the gold medal, but every athlete is dreaming of that.”

In 2011 Chicherova only narrowly failed to break the World Record. “When I looked back at the video of the Brussels Diamond League I get a shiver. It was a special feeling to attack World Record heights. It gave me the mental strength to believe that everything is possible. That inspires me for the future. I know now that I can do it and I like to try to do it again. That was an exciting feeling and I am glad that I have tried it with full commitment.”

Chicherova is still unsure about participating in the World Indoor Championships. “When you’re a World Champion you can not just participate but you need the right focus and the right form in order to perform at your best at the Championships. The next competitions will tell if I can build up that motivation and that state of mind.”

Hellebaut on schedule for her quest for London 2012

Hellebaut had been training in South Africa for six weeks recently. Observers said that she looks as strong as she has ever been. “Indeed, training has been going very well and I was confident about my potential to jump 1.95m in my first competition. I must admit however that the fans here have pushed me a lot. I can set new targets now and I hope to jump 1.98m in one of the next meetings. I hope to reach my best form this winter at the World Indoor Championships in Istanbul.”

Hellebaut hopes to be able to compete for a medal at the Olympic Games in London next summer. “There is still a lot of work to do, but I have seven months left to train and to improve. Things can only go better.” Asked about her drive to make a second comeback and to combine training and child care Hellebaut said that she is still full of energy and ambition. “It is my love for the sport. I incredibly adore high jumping and my passion to perform is still intact. And motherhood has added to my mental power and confidence.”

Ivo Hendrix for the IAAF