After a near miss in Doha, Levchenko sets sights on Tokyo and Paris

Yuliya Levchenko
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Ukraine's Yuliya Levchenko successfully defended her high jump title at the Gavle 2019 European Athletics U23 Championships in July

Yuliya Levchenko’s season began with a 1.98m clearance in Minsk on 22 December and concluded at the World Military Games in Wuhan just over 10 months later - and 20 competitions later - on 23 October but the Ukrainian isn’t planning on a low-key start to her campaign in 2020.

“There will be no fundamental changes in my preparation for the next season,” Levchenko told X-Sport. “I’m not going to skip the indoor season as I really like to compete indoors and I don’t feel like I need a long rest.”

After winning bronze at the 2017 European Indoor Championships in Belgrade, Levchenko upgraded to a silver medal in Glasgow in March ahead of her largely successful summer campaign - albeit one which was punctuated by a bittersweet performance at the IAAF World Athletics Championships in Doha.

Her outdoor campaign began on a worrisome note as Levchenko injured her back on a cold night in the Stockholm Diamond League but the Ukrainian’s season began to pick up pace in July with notable wins at the Gavle 2019 European Athletics U23 Championships and then the Bydgoszcz 2019 European Athletics Team Championships, clearing 1.97m in both competitions.

Victory in the latter competition sealed her place on Team Europe for The Match in Minsk where Levchenko was one of Team Europe’s star performers across the two days, clearing a lifetime best of 2.02m ahead of her training partner Iryna Herashchenko to lead the hosts to a 1-2-3 in the women’s high jump.

This performance demonstrated Levchenko was rounding into excellent form ahead of the IAAF World Athletics Championships and some observers even opined the Ukrainian, who won silver in London 2017 at the age of 19, could even dethrone reigning two-time champion Mariya Lasitskene who showed rare signs of fallibility in Minsk by only finishing third at The Match. 

But Lasitskene successfully completed the hat-trick of titles with silver going to Levchenko’s precocious 18-year-old compatriot Yaroslava Mahuchikh and Vashti Cunningham winning bronze on countback at 2.00m ahead of Levchenko. Missing out on a medal by such a small margin was patently frustrating but the Ukrainian assesses the final pragmatically. 

“The fourth place finish in Doha was a nuisance but I still managed to produce competitive jumps and the overall standard was high. This is only the second time in history a high jumper has left without a medal with a 2.00m clearance,” she said.

After leaving Doha without a medal, Levchenko has two opportunities next summer to come away from a major outdoor event with some silverware, including the Paris 2020 European Athletics Championships which could be every bit as competitive as the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Indeed, nine of the top-10 female high jumpers on the 2019 world list all represent European countries.

“The most important events in 2020 for me are the Tokyo Olympics and then European Championships in Paris,” said Levchenko. “I still have room to improve as well as I have something to learn.”

2019 world outdoor high jump list

2.06m Mariya Lasitskene (ANA/RUS)
2.04m Yaroslava Mahuchikh (UKR)
2.02m Nafissatou Thiam (BEL)
2.02m Yuliya Levchenko (UKR)
2.00m Anna Chicherova (RUS)
2.00m Vashti Cunningham (USA)
2.00m Karyna Demidik (BLR)
1.99m Iryna Herashchenko (UKR)
1.98m Kamila Licwinko (POL)
1.97m Mirela Demireva (BUL)