The last time the men’s High Jump World record was broken in a global competition was 33 years ago when East Germany’s Gerd Wessig cleared 2.36m at the 1980 Olympic Games in the Luzhniki Stadium.
The same venue is playing host to this year’s IAAF World Championships, and Ukraine’s Bohdan Bondarenko came respectably close to emulating him on Thursday night.
Bondarenko sailed over a championship record of 2.41m, which added one centimetre to the mark set by Cuba’s Javier Sotomayor two decades ago in Stuttgart 1993, before having two decent attempts at a World record of 2.46m, one centimetre above the standard set by the Cuban a month prior to his triumph in Germany back in 1993.
It was a fantastic night for Ukraine with Bondarenko, following in the footsteps of heptathlete Hanna Melnychenko who won on Tuesday, being roared on by several thousand supporters from his country decked out in their national colours of blue and gold.
For each of his seven jumps, the rhythmic chants alternated between ‘U-krai-na’ and ‘mo-lo-dets’ which roughly translates as ‘go for it’.
Behind Bondarenko, Qatar’s London 2012 Olympic Games bronze medallist Mutaz Essa Barshim bounced back from his recent back worries and cleared 2.38m on his first attempt, just two centimetres shy of his Asian record set earlier this season.
Canada’s Derek Drouin, who accompanied Barshim on to the third step of the podium in London last summer, got his second bronze medal in consecutive major international championships when he also cleared 2.38m, adding two centimetres to his own recent national record, but clearing that height on his second attempt meant he finished third.
The battle for the medals effectively started at 2.32m with eight men attempting that height and Bondarenko passing after sailing clear at 2.29m.
Drouin and Russia’s 2012 Olympic champion Ukhov went over at the first time of asking while USA’s Erik Kynard, Barshim and The Bahamas’ 2007 World champion Donald Thomas managed it with their second attempts. Russia’s 2010 European champion Aleksandr Shustov joined them at the next height with a clearance on his third try.
The bar moved up to 2.35m and Droiun, jumping first of the seven men still in contention, immediately put the pressure on his rivals by slithering over, leaving the bar gently shaking but it stayed on the uprights.
Two attempts later, Bondarenko returned to the fray and soared over, followed in similar fashion by Barshim.
Ukhov, roared to the rafters of the Luzhniki Stadium, also went clear with his first attempt but tickled the bar as he went over.
The two men to go out were USA’s Olympic silver medallist Kynard, perhaps tired after a long season which saw him have his first outdoor competition in late March, and Shustov.
Thomas, jumping last of the six men still involved and having seen four men go clear, realised that he would not be in medal contention even if he were to clear 2.35m with the first attempt, and so decided to pass that height as he had two failures earlier in the competition.
Bondarenko then stunned everyone by audaciously passing 2.38m.
Barshim went well over 2.38m with his first jump while Drouin popped over on his second attempt, leaving the bar shimmering in the Moscow night sky.
With Ukhov, who had previously been flawless, and Thomas notching up three failures, the medals were decided.
After one failure by all three men, Bondarenko then produced what was the gold medal-winning leap at 2.41m by going clear with a massive jump which saw plenty of daylight between the body of the lanky Ukrainian and the bar.
Barshim then decided to have two remaining efforts at 2.44m in a bid for glory while Drouin departed from the event with two more failures at 2.41m.
Barshim then brought the bar down twice at 2.44m, with his second attempt being respectably close, to leave the stage clear for Bondarenko to make his third tilt at a World record this season.
It was not to be but his 2.41m equalled his national record set at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Lausanne last month and he remains the best jumper in the world for 19 years; and since the halcyon era of Sotomayor in the early 1990s.
Phil Minshull for the IAAF