Anna Chicherova lay flat on her back on the high jump landing pit at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Lausanne on Thursday (9), arms out, face full of surprise.
Above her, the bar remained steadfast at 2.03m – the best achieved in the world this year by a full three centimetres, and nine centimetres better than the 32-year-old Olympic champion has managed thus far into the season.
No wonder she looked temporarily overwhelmed.
The Russian had won the competition by getting the better of another hugely experienced competitor, Spain’s 36-year-old double European champion Ruth Beitia, along with Sweden’s Erika Kinsey and her fellow countrywoman Svetlana Shkolina, the world champion.
All four women cleared 1.94m, although the two senior women were joint leaders having fouled only once en route. Only one cleared 1.97m, however.
“I am delighted today!” said Chicherova. “I felt I was ready. However I was in a bit of a panic because of the wind. I rarely jump in such conditions – it was very perturbing. In the end I had to take a risk and it paid off.
“It is the best day of my life since 2013. It shows what I am capable of in preparation for the Beijing World Championships.”
Renaud Lavillenie suffered a second IAAF Diamond League defeat in the space of less than a week as, in unhelpfully blustery conditions, he gambled on clearing 5.92m and failed.
That left Poland’s Pawel Wojciechowski as the winner, having cleared 5.84m, his best height since winning the 2011 world title. It was also the height the Olympic champion and world record-holder skipped.
The Frenchman had stepped out of two heights before clearing 5.76m at his second attempt, to his obvious relief.
But in the end that was the only height he managed and he finished third on countback to the German who beat him to the world title two years ago, Raphael Holzdeppe.
“The conditions were not good today,” Lavillenie said. “All my jumps were in a strong headwind and so I did not get to perform to my best. I don’t feel any pressure. Today I felt stronger and fitter than last week in Paris.
“I just want to get to the next meet which hopefully will be in good conditions so I can get over six metres again.”
As with the women’s high jump, experience told too in the women’s 100m hurdles that followed shortly after Chicherova’s final flourish as Dawn Harper Nelson, the 31-year-old 2008 Olympic champion, followed up her victory at the US Championships by restating her enduring credentials against a field packed with rising young talent.
Harper Nelson won in 12.55, with 23-year-old compatriot Jasmin Stowers – who led the world lists for the early part of the season but who arrived here deflated after failing to qualify for next month’s IAAF World Championships in Beijing – taking a hugely creditable second place in 12.58 ahead of another US non-qualifier, Queen Harrison, who clocked 12.63.
Sharika Nelvis, who has made the US team for Beijing by finishing third at the US Championships after clocking a world-leading 12.34 in the heats, was fourth in the same time as Harrison.
The flu from which local hero Kariem Hussein has recently recovered probably took more out of him than he realised.
Switzerland’s European 400m hurdles champion gave his all in lane five and looked to be in an ideal position to strike for home as the field arrived at the final straight.
But at that point Hussein started to move backwards, eventually finishing sixth in 49.44 in a race where Diamond Race leader Bershawn Jackson of the United States extended his Diamond Race lead with victory in 48.71 ahead of LJ van Zyl of South Africa (48.92) and Russia’s Denis Kudryavtsev, who clocked 49.01.
Zharnel Hughes, the 19-year-old who is newly qualified to run for Britain after switching nationality from Anguilla, produced a winning performance and a personal best of 20.13 in the 200m to finish well clear of South Africa’s Diamond Race leader Anaso Jobodwana, who clocked 20.21, and Isiah Young of the United States, who was third in 20.27.
Hughes – who trains with the man who had to pull out of this meeting last week with injury, Usain Bolt – was drawn awkwardly in lane two, but he made the most of what Bolt describes as one of the best curves in the world to emerge as leader in the home straight.
“I knew I had to work the lane really hard because there were so many guys ahead of me,” Hughes said.
Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands held off a women’s 1500m field of the highest quality to win in 4:02.36 and maintain her Diamond Race lead.
Hassan finished a couple of metres clear of Kenya’s Faith Kipyegon, who clocked 4:03.38, with Jenny Simpson of the United States taking third place in 4:03.54.
Mike Rowbottom for the IAAF