Sandi Morris said before the IAAF Diamond League final in Brussels that she was in the type of form that could see her improve on her US outdoor best and world-leading mark of 4.93m. She delivered on her promise with aplomb in front of more than 44,000 spectators at the AG Insurance Memorial Van Damme on Friday (9).
She did it not only once but twice, eventually clearing 5.00m on her second attempt to become just the third woman to clear that halcyon height – behind world record-holder Yelena Isinbayeva and world indoor record-holder Jenn Suhr – and just the second outdoors.
To finish off the night, she gave the crowd the unexpected bonus of seeing the bar rise to the world record height of 5.07m and she had three full-blooded attempts at trying to improve on Isinbayeva’s seven-year-old world record of 5.06m.
Despite the presence of Ekaterini Stefanidi, who had beaten her to the gold medal on countback at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games and had clinched the Diamond Race ahead of the final after her string of victories earlier in the season, Morris always looked like the woman most likely to hit the heights in the Belgian capital.
Only Morris and Stefanidi were left in at 4.76m, Switzerland’s Nicole Buchler finishing third at 4.58m, and Morris had a foul at this height while Stefanidi went clear.
However, the Olympic champion could go no higher and Morris rattled off three successive first-time clearances at 4.82m, 4.88m – which, in itself, was an IAAF Diamond League Record – and then 4.94m.
Charging down the runway on her first attempt at 4.94m, with much of the crowd distracted as the advertised 3000m steeple world record attempt was entering its penultimate lap, she soared well clear.
With the bar raised to 5.00m, her first attempt was nowhere near and no indicator of what was to come.
World record attempts
On her second attempt, she got the height and slithered over, touching the bar at least three times and it was still heaving up and down as she hit the mat. However, her brief prayer with her hands clasped together paid off and the bar stayed on the uprights, leading Morris to collapse in paroxysms of delight and delirium.
The night was not over and her second two attempts at 5.07m were certainly respectable. It’s doubtful that will be the last time she attempts this height.
South Africa’s Luvo Manyonga, competing for the first time since he took the long jump silver medal in Rio, showed that he was well rested and rattled off four jumps better than anybody else, topped by his personal best of 8.48m in the fifth round, just two centimetres short of the African record held by his compatriot Godfrey Mokoena.
Best of the rest was Australia’s Fabrice Lapierre, whose 8.17m was enough to get him second place and enough points to lift the Diamond Trophy.
Erik Kynard won the high jump on the night and the Diamond Race for season-long consistency thanks to his second-time clearance at 2.32m.
Six men attempted 2.32m but the four-time US champion was the only one to go clear at the second time of asking, with Qatar’s Mutaz Essa Barshim and Great Britain’s Robbie Grabarz emulating him with their third attempts.
None of the trio could go clear at 2.35m so Barshim finished second, having been flawless up to 2.32m, and Grabarz third.
Ukraine’s 2013 world champion Bogdan Bondarenko failed to shrug off the sinus problems that have been troubling him the past month, despite getting the bronze medal in Rio, and went no higher than 2.20m.
Stahl continues winning streak
Daniel Stahl would probably have preferred a medal in Rio but the Swedish discus thrower has hit a vein of form since he failed to qualify for the Olympic final, throwing a personal best and world-leading 68.72m when winning his national title two weeks ago. He extended his unbeaten run since Rio to four contests with his second-round 65.78m in Brussels.
Piotr Malachowski led after the first round with 65.27m but could not improve on a night when the still conditions possibly precluded the big distances, and so the honours went to Stahl. But Malachowski, the world champion and Olympic silver medallist, garnered enough points to take the Diamond Race.
Caterine Ibarguen had clinched the Diamond Race ahead of Brussels but the world and Olympic champion still stamped her authority on the final.
She moved into the lead with her second-round 14.54m, improved to 14.56m in the fifth round and then reached 14.66m with the last jump of the night.
Second was her predecessor as Olympic champion, Kazakhstan’s Olga Rypakova, whose second-round 14.41m briefly took the lead before Ibarguen found her rhythm.
The first Diamond Race to be decided on Friday went to Latvian javelin thrower Madara Palameika, who made it a night for double celebration when she unleashed her implement out to 66.18m for a three-centimetre improvement on her two-year-old national record.
Palameika knew it was a good throw when it left her hand and she turned around to give a double clenched fist acknowledgement to her fellow competitors, although nothing more than a slight smile gave away the fact that she had achieved the fourth Latvian record of her career and was US$40,000 richer.
Nobody else could get within two metres, the best of the rest being Czech world record-holder Barbora Spotakova, who reached 63.78m in the fifth round.
In the non-Diamond Race women’s high jump, Olympic heptathlon champion Nafi Thiam provided a crowd-pleasing win. Four women got over 1.93m but Thiam was the only one to do so on her second attempt, the remaining trio needing three tries.
Phil Minshull for the IAAF