Ukhov to take big leap into great outdoors
PICK OF THE DAY ATHLETICS: Men's High Jump Final, 7pm, Olympic Stadium:THE BIG question being asked here before this final is not so much what height can Ivan Ukhov clear, but can he finally turn the corner?
Ukhov, he of the infamous drunk-looking high-jumping YouTube clip, has been among the very best in the business since 2006, the only problem being the big Russian always seems to jump better indoors than out.
In 2009 he won the European Indoor title, yet could only manage 10th at the World Championships in Berlin; in 2010 he struck gold at the World Indoors, but had to settle for silver at the European Championships.
Then just last year, he cleared 2.38 metres to defend his European indoor title, and yet again could only finish fifth at the World Championships in Daegu.
Whether or not Ukhov turns that corner this evening remains to be seen, but he’s certainly coming around the bend – he finished third at the World Indoors back in March and in his final tune-up for London, at the Russuab Championships, set an outdoor best of 2.39m – just one centimetre shy of his national indoor record.
However, the Oympic high jump – for men and women – has a history of throwing up surprise champions, and this evening might be no different. In Beijing four years ago, fellow Russian Andrey Silnow struck gold, with 2.36, despite placing fourth in the Russian Championships, and was originally left off their Olympic team. Only when he cleared 2.37 a few weeks before, in London, was he added to the team, and he sure proved everyone wrong.
Ukhov then certainly will need to produce his best form – and indeed his Russian team-mate is once again as capable of victory here. Silnov is back, clearing 2.37m to finish second to Ukhov at the Russian Championships.
In qualification on Sunday evening, the bar didn’t even need to be raised at the 2.32m automatic qualification standard to determine the final jumpers – instead, it will be a 14-man final after the judges decided it would not be necessary to continue after only six men cleared 2.29, and nine more were successful at 2.26.
Ukhov was one of only two men clearing 2.29 at the first time of asking, and certainly looks to have brought his A-game to London.
However, with the 80,000 people clapping him on, Britain’s Robert Grabarz could prove the toughest challenger of them all – Grabarz is having the season of his life, having broken his personal best seven times between indoor and outdoor, and winning the European title in Helsinki back in June.