Ukhov has the world record in his sights

Ukhov has the world record in his sights
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Russia's Ivan Ukhov is back to his Olympic form as he cleared 2.41m breaking the Russian indoor record in Chelyabinsk.

It always had the prospects of being a year to remember for the men's high jump on the back of the brilliant achievements of Bohdan Bondarenko last summer, but few people could have expected the standard to be set just a few days into 2014.

Fresh from his 2.38m world-leading mark last weekend, Russia's Olympic champion Ivan Ukhov has now gone even higher.

At the Lukashevich and Seredkin Memorial in Chelyabinsk, Ukhov broke the Russian indoor record with a stunning 2.41m.

The jump puts him equal third on the all-time indoor list and if he repeated the height outdoors, he would be in the same position on those rankings.

Suddenly, both the world records held for so long by Cuba's Javier Sotomayor now look in danger.

It is ironic that Ukhov should have such a great week because last Wednesday - January 15 - marked the 30th year anniversary of when pole vault legend Sergei Bubka broke his first world record of 5.81m.

Yes, a different field event but just as no-one has been able to touch his status at the top of the all-times pole vault lists (his greatest height was 6.15m), that had seemed to be the case for Sotomayor in the high jump for so long.

But now a new generation is closing in on their place in history.

Both Sotomayor's indoor world record of 2.43m from 1989 and his outdoor 2.45m from 1993 have more than stood the test of time. They have looked unbreakable...until now.

Has Ukhov become further inspired by Ukrainian Bondarenko, who won gold at the IAAF World Championships in Moscow by repeating for the second time last year a personal best of 2.41m?

Bondarenko's achievements saw him named European Athletics' Male Athlete of the Year and the prospects of a clash between the two is mouth-watering.

Last weekend for Ukhov it was 2.38m in a prolific season opener at the Chuvashya Governor Cup indoor.

But now he has taken his jumping to an even greater level with his exploits in Chelyabinsk.

After first attempt clearances at 2.15m, 2.23m, 2.32m and 2.36m, the bar was moved to 2.41m which he went over on his third go.

It was reported by Runners.ru that after a re-measurement for record purposes the bar was actually at 2.42m but the record will stand at 2.41m.

"I think all factors were working today for the record. I like Chelyabinsk as a city; here I virtually started my career. That means I always compete well here also due to excellent crowd," Uhkov said.

But what then happens when he finds himself in the same competition as Bondarenko?

Will the competitive streak of both take them beyond what Sotomayor achieved?

It is looking possible, particularly as Bondarenko did attempt both 2.46m and 2.47m in the summer as he chased the Cuban's outdoor world record set in Salamanca in July 1993.

His indoor record height was in Budapest in March 1989 but now Ukhov stands only two centimetres away from matching that.

And we are still only in January. Who knows how high these two will fly come the European Athletics Championships in Zurich 12-17 August.