Ukraine’s Yaroslava Mahuchikh achieved her third victory in four years at the Banskobystricka latka in Banska Bystrica on Tuesday (14) evening, a World Athletics Indoor Tour Silver meeting.
Mahuchikh was in a clinical mood, only taking three jumps to secure the victory. The Ukrainian entered the competition with a first-time clearance at 1.91m before maintaining her clear card, soaring over 1.95m and a competition-winning height of 1.97m on her first attempts.
The manner in which Mahuchikh cleared those early heights suggested she was capable of challenging the record books. The 21-year-old arrived fresh from clearing a world lead of 2.02m in Metz and the reigning European indoor and outdoor champion also holds the meeting record in Banska Bystrica with 2.06m from 2021.
Mahuchikh raised the bar to a prospective world lead of 2.04m but the despite the best efforts of a 1000-strong capacity crowd in the Stiavnicky Sport Hall and the advice and support from her long-time coach Tetyana Stepanova who was watching proceedings from the perimeter of the sector, the Ukrainian couldn’t quite add another two metre-plus competition to her resume.
After nearly identical first and second attempts which saw Mahuchikh brush the bar off with her ankles, Mahuchikh readjusted her run-up for her third attempt. Despite bringing the bar down again, the Ukrainian still maintains her unbeaten streak ahead of the Istanbul 2023 European Athletics Indoor Championships from 2-5 March when she will defend her title.
"I know that physically I’m ready to jump higher even than 2.04m. I feel strong and, unfortunately, I’m still trying to use all power on the runway losing easiness and speed on my last steps. I cannot be satisfied with result like 1.97m but I’m really happy with the first place here, because I hope that each of my victories in high jump field is my little contribution to the soonest victory of Ukraine," said Mahuchikh.
Behind Mahuchikh, Italy’s Elena Vallortigara finished second on countback ahead of European silver medallist Marija Vukovic at 1.95m by virtue of a clutch attempt at that height after two failures at 1.93m.
The anticipated head-to-head with last year’s winner and reigning world champion Eleanor Patterson sadly did not materialise. The Australian injured her foot in a training session yesterday and did not start the competition.
Kerr clears Oceanian record of 2.34m to beat Protsenko
Hamish Kerr prevented a prospective Ukrainian double in Banska Bystrica with victory over veteran Andriy Protsenko in an absorbing head-to-head in the men’s competition.
The only two athletes left in the competition with the bar at 2.30m, Kerr stayed in the lead with his sixth successive first-time clearance of the competition.
After bringing the bar down once at 2.30m, Protsenko eschewed any further attempts at that height and the reigning world and European bronze medallist took the initiative by clearing the next height of 2.32m on his second and last remaining attempt.
Having failed once, it was Kerr’s turn to move up to the next height of 2.34m and the gamble paid off. The New Zealander cleared what proved to be a competition-winning height on his first attempt. Not only was it an outright lifetime best and national record, his 2.34m clearance also broke Tim Forsyth’s long-standing Oceanian indoor record.
Both Kerr and Protsenko attempted 2.36m - a height Protsenko has cleared in the past albeit not since 2014 - but neither athlete was successful on this occasion.
"Today, I can proudly say that I’m not old but highly experienced. I aimed to improve my season best in Banska Bystrica to 2.30m and honestly, I was surprised I cleared the bar over 2.32m. We had some doubts about my participation at the European Indoor Championships, but after such a perfect feelings I had when fighting with Kerr, I’m highly motivated to go and prepare for Istanbul," said Protsenko.
Full results here.
Steven Mills for European Athletics