Gianmarco Tamberi cleared an outright Italian record and world-leading mark of 2.38m in the Czech town of Hustopece on Saturday evening (13).
In good shape after a warm weather training camp in South Africa, the extrovert 23-year-old opened his indoor season across the border in Slovakia last week at the Banska Bystrica high jump meeting where he surprised himself by clearing 2.35m to win on count back ahead of his compatriot Marco Fassinotti.
The joint Italian indoor record-holders were tipped for another head-to-head contest in Hustopece – another of the popular ‘high jump to music’ indoor meetings in this part of the world – but Fassinotti surprisingly departed at 2.30m after clearing 2.25m on his first attempt.
Instead, Tamberi was still pushed all the way in Hustopece by the little-known Brit Chris Baker, who equalled his lifetime best of 2.28m before improving his best three more times: 2.30m and 2.34m on his first attempts, and 2.36m on his second attempt.
"When Chris cleared 2.36m, it was like a shock for me," said Tamberi, who had passed at 2.36m before going clear at 2.38m on his first attempt. "I went all in at 2.38m and I did everything right."
Tamberi added one centimetre to his Italian record set last summer in Eberstadt while Baker – whose most noteworthy international performance to date is his fourth-place finish at the 2014 Commonwealth Games – moved to within two centimetres of Steve Smith’s long-standing British record, also set indoors back in 1994.
Tamberi and Baker both had three attempts at 2.40m but that height proved beyond their capacity.
“I can say that 2.40m is now the goal that I have in my head," said Tamberi. "It’s too bad I wasn’t able to get it (in Hustopece) because the conditions from the surface to the atmosphere were there."
In a high quality competition, perennial global finalist Kyriakos Ioannou equalled his Cypriot indoor record of 2.32m on his season’s opener while European indoor silver medallist Silvano Chesani – who has been training with Tamberi this winter – rounded out the top four with a season’s best of 2.30m.
Tamberi and Chesani will be a chasing a little bit of history at the IAAF World Indoor Championships Portland 2016 next month as no Italian man has ever won a medal at this competition.
In the women’s contest in Hustopece, Levern Spencer of St Lucia equalled her national indoor record of 1.95m to defeat Doreen Amata, who also matched her Nigerian indoor record with a 1.93m clearance.
Having beaten the seniors in Trinec last weekend, 17-year-old world youth champion Michaela Hruba had to settle for third on countback at 1.93m.
Barshim clears 2.36m in Malmo
Mutaz Essa Barshim regained the world lead for about four hours after clearing 2.36m in a low-key competition in Malmo, Sweden where he has been based this winter.
Barshim also had one good attempt at 2.38m in his final event before he competes on home soil at the Asian Indoor Championships which will be staged in Doha from Friday to Sunday next week.
Barshim will be aiming for his fourth gold medal in succession at that event ahead of the IAAF World Indoor Championships, where he has confirmed he will defend his title.
Barshim cleared 2.38m to win the gold medal in Sopot, Poland two years ago but he has since improved his Asian record to 2.41m.
Steven Mills for the IAAF