He hadn’t jumped or jogged, let alone trained, since winning the world high jump title exactly one week ago, but Mutaz Essa Barshim looked full of life as he bounded over 2.40m at the Muller Grand Prix, providing the highlight of the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Birmingham on Sunday (20).
It wasn’t all plain sailing for the Qatari, though. Having led up to and including 2.28m with first-time clearances at each height, he brought the bar down at 2.31m. World bronze medallist Majd Eddin Ghazal then applied pressure by going over that height on his first attempt.
After one more miss, Barshim got over it on his third try to remain in the competition. He then went clear at 2.33m and 2.35m, at which point Ghazal retired from the competition. Barshim then had the bar set to 2.39m and clipped it with his heels on his first try. After an unconvincing second attempt, he requested for the bar to be upped to 2.40m. With his final attempt of the day, he slinked over the bar with absolute precision to break his own meeting record.
Having jumped that landmark height each season since 2013, Barshim now becomes the first man in history to clear 2.40m or higher for five consecutive years. His winning jump was also the first 2.40m leap on British soil since 2000.
“I knew I had that jump in me but I needed that pressure on my shoulders,” said Barshim. “It was a strong competition which really tested me and that made me perform at my best. I love it here; I had the meeting record here from 2014 and I also won in Birmingham last year so it is a lucky place for me.
“I can jump as high as possible,” he added. “I don't want to put any limits on myself. 2.40m was great today and I didn't want to push it too much a risk injury so I was just sensible.”
After celebrating his winning jump, he walked back up to the uprights, picked up the crossbar and walked back to the bench. “Seriously, I’m taking this home with me,” he told the in-stadium interviewer.
Barshim was one of four field event world champions to win in Birmingham, but all of them had to come from behind to take their victories.
World champion Tom Walsh trailed Olympic champion Ryan Crouser for the first four rounds of the shot put, 21.29m to the US thrower’s 21.55m. But a fifth-round throw of 21.75m – a stadium record – put the New Zealander into the lead and he ended his series with 21.83m.
Crouser didn’t improve on his first-round throw, while Czech record-holder Tomas Stanek took third with 21.16m.
“My biggest worry today was not performing like a world champion,” said Walsh. “I wanted to prove I deserved to be world champion and I pleased that I did that. I didn’t start too well but I got better as the competition went on. To throw that far with a slightly uphill throwing area is very encouraging.”
After two rounds of the discus, world and Olympic champion Sandra Perkovic was down in fourth place with a best of just 62.49m. But the Croatian uncorked a throw of 67.22m in the third round to take a lead which she did not relinquish.
Cuban duo Denia Caballero and Yaimi Perez did not improve on their respective throws of 65.24m and 65.11m from round two, but Perkovic had a bit more left and extended her leading mark to 67.51m with the final throw of the day.
“I'm very happy to perform like that straight after a World Championships,” said Perkovic. “The conditions were very tricky; it was windy and cold. I didn't feel like I could really produce a maximum performance today, it was pretty exhausting.”
World and Olympic champion Ekaterini Stefanidi maintained her unbeaten streak in the pole vault. Ahead of the meeting, the Greek record-holder had spoken about attempting big heights now that the World Championships was out of the way, but in the end she needed just 4.75m to win.
With no one else going higher than 4.61m – four women cleared that mark with Holly Bradshaw taking second place ahead of Sweden’s Michaela Meijer – Stefanidi upped the bar to 4.88m but was unsuccessful.
The women’s triple jump was one of the closest contests of the day. 2012 Olympic champion Olga Rypakova was the early leader before Jamaica’s Kimberly Williams took the lead with 14.44m in round two, matching it in round four.
Two-time world champion Caterine Ibarguen then produced the third 14.44m leap of the day but was second on countback to Williams. The Colombian saved her best for the final round, though, leaping 14.51m to take a late victory.
After taking the lead in round two of the long jump with 7.99m, USA’s Jarrion Lawson followed it in the third round with 8.19m, which remained the best mark of the day. World bronze medallist Ruswahl Samaai once again finished one place behind Lawson, the South African jumping 8.03m for second place. Olympic champion Jeff Henderson withdrew from the competition after recording fouls in the first two rounds.
Wightman takes mile win
It may not have been a Diamond discipline in Birmingham, but as a race that dates back to 1953, the Emsley Carr Mile still carried a certain amount of prestige.
No one seemed particularly interested in going with pace maker Andrew Rotich through the first two laps, which the bunched field covered just outside two minutes. With 600 metres left, USA’s Olympic steeplechase silver medallist Evan Jager hit the front but still had company. Britain’s Chris O’Hare then took the lead with 200 metres remaining, but compatriot Jake Wightman overtook him just a few seconds later.
The pair kicked hard for the line and O’Hare regained a bit of ground, but Wightman held on for the win in 3:54.92, just 0.09 ahead of O’Hare. USA’s Ben Blankenship finished third in 3:55.89, 0.21 in front of David Torrence of Peru.
Wightman, who won the 1500m in Oslo earlier this year, became the first British winner of the Emsley Carr Mile since 2005. Other former winners of the race include Asbel Kiprop, Hicham El Guerrouj, Sebastian Coe, Said Aouita and John Walker.
Earlier in the afternoon, it looked as though the home crowd would be treated to another British middle-distance victory as Lynsey Sharp hit the front with 150 metres to go of the women’s 800m, but Ethiopia’s Habitam Alemu came through to take the lead with 70 metres left, winning in 1:59.60.
One of the innovations of the meeting was a three-nation ‘hammer challenge’ contest in which Britain took on Poland and Germany. World champion Pawel Fajdek fouled his first three throws, but went on to send his hammer flying to 78.51m. Compatriot Joanna Fiodorow won the women’s event with 71.14m, giving the Polish pair a combined winning distance of 149.65m.
Elsewhere, Dwayne Cowan timed his race to perfection to win the 400m in a PB of 45.35, while an all-British 100m was won by CJ Ujah in 10.08.
Race walker Tom Bosworth won a unique and surprisingly close ‘walk vs run’ event in which he covered 1000m in 3:28.28, holding off international middle-distance runner Adam Clarke, who covered 1400m in 3:28.99.
Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF