Banská Bystrica, SlovakiaSweden’s Stefan Holm reached a milestone in his high jumping career with his 100th performance at 2.30m and higher last night (13) with a 2.37m leap to win the men’s division of the Europa Shopping Center High Jump competition in Banská Bystrica, Slovakia.
In the women’s competition, Bulgaria’s Venelina Veneva set a world indoor season lead of 2.02m.
So far as high-jump competitions go, it would be hard to conceive of a script more exciting than the one written tonight.
MEN - “Holm 100”
The Holm responded to the cheers of the turnaway crowd in the Stiavnicky hall when he rose to prepare for his first attempt at 2.30. One of the local coaches, Radovan Misek, had distributed 300 signs reading “Holm 100” which the spectators were waving wildly as Holm began his run. The Olympic champion accomplished his goal with a first-attempt success and drew an ecstatic and long-lasting cheer.
Holm himself has done the statistical work on his own career, and his 100-competition total is made up of 62 outdoor and 38 indoor clashes over a period of ten years less nine days. “If I didn’t do it tonight, I still had Stockholm as my last chance,” he remarked, admitting that he wanted to reach this plateau in less than ten years.
Holm was not the only part of the evening, however. Pity poor Yaroslav Rybakov who had to deal with this lavish display of adulation for a rival. The Russian was the next jumper after Holm’s 2.30, and the reigning World indoor champion was not going to let the Swede take an easy victory. Rybakov also cleared on his first attempt, keeping the hot competition tied. In fact, Cuban Victor Moya was also part of what was a three-way logjam at that height, but he exited at 2.33 to leave the drama to the two Europeans.
Both Holm and Rybakov needed two attempts at 2.33, and it was not until the bar was at 2.35 that Holm’s victory started to emerge. The Swede’s leadoff jump at that height was good, forcing Rybakov to pass. Holm then leaped a meeting record 2.37 on his first attempt, and Rybakov could not really afford to play spectator a second time. After one failure, he passed to a would-be world-leading 2.39.
Both jumpers missed twice - Rybakov thus being eliminated - and Holm directed the bar to be raised to 2.41, at which he only had the strength and concentration for a run-through on his single remaining attempt.
Tonight’s performance was Holm’s highest mark since his 2.40 winning jump at the 2005 European Indoor Championships. “It was especially rewarding for me tonight because I’ve had a lot of injuries and sickness in the last two seasons,” he remarked at the post-competition banquet. “That’s something I haven’t really been used to in the past.”
He acknowledged that the presence of Rybakov may have helped in pushing the heights upward. “I knew that a failure at 2.37 would be giving him a chance,” he said, recognizing Rybakov’s sang-froid in such combative situations.
“It’s been a long time since I jumped this high,” Holm continued. “And it’s good to have this kind of performance in mid-February. Now, I won’t feel as much pressure the rest of the season to always make a good performance. I can concentrate on winning.”
Holm’s next appearance will be in Stockholm at the IAAF indoor permit meeting next week, followed by the Swedish Nationals in Gothenburg and the European Indoor Championships in early March.
Moya of Cuba and Slovakia’s Peter Horak took the next two places at 2.30. For Horak, it was the first time over the magic height, and one might accuse his coach - the same Radovan Misek - of overlooking his own protégé by not also printing “Horak 1” signs.
WOMEN – World lead; Italian record
In the women’s competition, Venelina Veneva won with a world leading 2.02. The Bulgarian jumper had decided only during the past weekend to make her first appearance at this traditional winter high jump competition, now in its 14th year. Only a single miss at 1.94 marred her series up through her winning leap, which equalled her own indoor personal best.
Veneva, who won the silver medal at last summer’s European Championships, ended the evening with three unsuccessful attempts at a would be World record 2.09.
On why she went directly for the World record height, Veneva said “Everyone likes a World record, so I thought I’d give it a try.”
Antonietta Di Martino was a surprising second in the competition, clearing 2.00 for the first time in her career and taking sole possession of the Italian national record, which had stood at 1.98 for thirteen years. She had claimed a part of the old record after her performance four days ago in Bucharest. The Neapolitan jumper, after two lacklustre misses at 1.98, made a determined third effort and sailed over the bar with room to spare to stay alive, as a preface to her historic feat.
Two marquee athletes finished third and fourth. Another Banská Bystrica debutante, World outdoor champion Kajsa Bergqvist of Sweden, the World indoor record holder and two-time World indoor gold medallist, had problems at 2.00, a height she has jumped indoors on sixteen previous occasions. “I just didn’t have it tonight,” was her simple, direct assessment afterwards. Her best of 1.97 earned third place.
In fourth place at 1.97 was last year’s winner here, Blanka Vlasic of Croatia. The silver medallist at last season’s World Indoor Championships, Vlasic surprisingly passed 2.00 before failing three times at 2.02.
Ed Gordon for the IAAF