There was no world record, a no-show, because of injury, from Asafa Powell, but no stopping Ben Blankenship from running the first indoor sub-four minute mile on Irish soil at the Athlone International meeting last night.
Unfortunately the American did beat the two Irish hopefuls to the moment of history, as Blankenship clocked 3:56.76 to get the better of both Ciarán Ó Lionáird and John Travers. Ó Lionáird had gone with Blankenship, his training partner, before the American hit the front at halfway, passed in 1:57-odd, then cruised on to victory - with Ó Lionáird fading badly over the last two laps.
Much of the night, however, belonged to Mutaz Barshim, the impossibly lean 23-year-old from Qatar, who was eyeing up the world indoor high jump record of 2.43 metres, set back in 1989 by the legendary Cuban Javier Sotomayor (who still holds the outdoor world record too with his 2.45 metres).
Barshim had comfortably won the competition, after clearing 2.20, 2.25, 2.37, then 2.14 – the best jump in the world this year, a new Asian record, and equal fourth best ever. With that raised the bar to 2.44, although the world record wasn’t to be, as Barshim narrowly clipped the bar on all three attempts.
For Powell – who had raised some controversy for simply being invited to Athlone, given the fact the former 100m world record holder is just back from a doping offence - the chance to even compete in Athlone was denied by a groin injury, which the 32 year-old Jamaican sustained while warming up for the 60m.
“I felt good, in practice, track felt great, but it’s very unfortunate, that I hurt my groin, in the warm-up,” said Powell. But these things happen in the sport. I’m disappointed that I didn’t get to compete. I felt like I was ready to run a really fast time, but next year, I’ll come back. Hopefully this will just keep me out for a week or so.”
Ireland's Declan Murray also lost out on victory in the men's 800m, as the American Eric Sowinski beat him to the line, looking impressive with his winning time of 1:47:43. Murray will be back on the Athlone track at this weekend's National Indoor championships, having already qualified for the European Indoors in Prague on the first weekend in March.
Elsewhere, Gesa Krause from German won the women's metres in another stadium record of 4:12.48, with Americans Manteo Mitchell winning the 400m in 47.19 seconds, and Sharika Nelvis the 60m hurdles in 7.95 seconds, while Tianna Bartoletta got the better of Carmelita Jeter in the 60m, with Jeter only managing third – although that race had to be later re-run, due to a series of problems with the clock and starter.