This has proved to be a halcyon year for men’s high jumping with Ukraine’s Bohdan Bondarenko going over 2.41m and Qatar’s Mutaz Essa Barshim clearing 2.40m; the first year since 1991 that two men have gone over 2.40m or higher.
The mantle of being the favourite probably rests on the skinny shoulders of Bondarenko in light of his recent form and the back problems of his Asian rival.
In his first competition of 2013, at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Doha, Bondarenko announced his arrival as a potential Moscow medal contender as he improved his personal best to 2.33m to break Qatari hearts as the local favourite Barshim had to settle for second with 2.30m.
He then cleared 2.33m again to finish a narrow second in Shanghai to Barshim as the pair’s count-back records differed by just one failure but that has been last defeat of 2013.
He rattled off four straight wins in Rabat, Moscow, Ostrava and the European Team Championships but the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Birmingham on 30 June proved to be another crucial step forward as he cleared another personal best of 2.36m.
However, that was just a prelude to the fireworks that came the following week in Lausanne as he went over 2.41m, a height not achieved for 19 years. He then unsuccessfully tried a World record height of 2.46m.
At his last competition in London just over two weeks ago, Bondarenko went well clear over 2.38m before two audacious attempts at 2.47m.
It was in London that Barshim reappeared after an almost two-month break due to back problems and finished third with a modest 2.24m.
Before the emergence of Bondarenko, the first half of the year belonged to Barshim as the Olympic bronze medallist cleared an Asian indoor record and world-leading mark of 2.37m in Moscow, and outdoors he went over an Asian record of 2.40m at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Eugene.
Both of the top men will also be keeping an eye on the US extrovert Erik Kynard, the Olympic silver medallist, who has had a good year. His first personal best, 2.36m, came when he finished second to Barshim in Eugene, and then he cleared 2.37m in the thrilling contest with Bondarenko in Lausanne last month.
Another potential medal contender is Canada’s Derek Drouin, who improved his national record when he went over 2.36m in Eugene and the Olympic bronze medallist has come to Europe in good form, clearing 2.35m at a Belgian meeting in Ninove just over a week ago.
By contrast to the men that finished behind him in London, Russia’s 2012 Olympic champion Ivan Ukhov has been struggling to impress and finished a lowly fifth at the World University Games last month. But he showed a modicum of his old form when winning at the Russian championships with 2.30m.
The field also contains three of the last four World champions: Ukraine’s Yuriy Krymarenko, Bahamas’ Donald Thomas and USA’s Jesse Williams, the champions of 2005, 2007 and 2011.
However, the trio’s current form suggests that a repeat appearance on the medal podium would be quite a surprise.
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Phil Minshull for the IAAF