Anna Chicherova kept the pressure on Blanka Vlasic all the way through the women’s High Jump final until the final height attempted at 2.05 metres.
A perfect record for the World leader, Chicherova, meant that from the time the bar went to two metres, Vlasic was always behind.
At 2.00 and 2.03, Chicherova cleared first time. Vlasic got each on the second attempt. But she was always trailing, without a chance to take the lead.
Antonietta Di Martino, the only other remaining competitor, cleared 2.00 after a long wait for a medal presentation to end. By an unhappy coincidence, she faced the same situation with her third attempt at 2.03, but this time the Italian could not pull off a clearance to remain in the competition.
Di Martino thus took the bronze at 2.00.
Finally, at 2.05, Chicherova missed. Vlasic had cleared that height or better in each of the past four years. She had come to Daegu under an injury cloud and already upped her season’s best from 2.00 to 2.03 in the final.
Now, in tennis terms, she was being presented with break points on her opponent’s serve. As she was jumping after the Russian world leader, if Vlasic cleared she would take the lead and reverse the momentum of the final.
Break-point one was lost, Vlasic brushing the bar with her shoulder on the way up. Now, Chicherova handed her another, missing again at 2.05. For a second time Vlasic let the chance go begging.
Chicherova’s World lead was 2.07, making her the equal-third highest performer ever. Yet, for a third time she could not close the contest out with a successful jump at 2.05. With one last chance, she went the closest yet, the merest brush bringing the bar down as she glided over.
At last, Chicherova was the champion after minor medals at World, Olympic and European championships level. She was placed in the top six at the past four World Championships, including consecutive silvers in 2007 and 2009.
Six women came to the final with personal bests of 2.00 or better. Fittingly, the only three to have achieved that height outdoors in 2011 fought out the medals.
Chicherova’s Russian team-mates Elena Slesarenko and Svetlana Shkolina both went out at 2.00, with Slesarenko fourth and Shkolina fifth at 1.97.
Vlasic has dominated the event for three years since unexpectedly losing the 2008 Beijing Olympic final. She won a dramatic final in Berlin 2009 against Chicherova and Germany’s Ariane Friedrich, then won last year’s European title (Chicherova was absent due to the birth of her first baby, a daughter).
The medallists this time were equal second, first and equal second, respectively, in Osaka four years ago, and second, first and fourth in Berlin 2009.
Len Johnson for the IAAF
- Anna Chicherova of Russia celebrates victory in the women's high jump final (Getty Images) © Copyright