With a season's best some 14 centimetres higher than the next best competitor, Ukraine’s Yaroslava Mahuchikh as expected delivered one of the most commanding performances at the European Athletics U20 Championships in Boras, Sweden last week
Mahuchikh won her third major age-group title in as many seasons with a faultless display, clearing six successive heights from 1.75m to 1.92m on her first attempts to win the title ahead of Russian youngsters Adelina Khalikova (1.90m) and Natalya Spiridonova (1.87m), both of whom will be eligible for the next edition of these championships in Tallinn, Estonia in 2021.
Mahuchikh has achieved some sizeable milestones this year, including becoming the youngest athlete in history to clear 2.00m - a feat she achieved at the Prefontaine Classic in Stanford last month. Her form ahead of Boras was such that she was tipped to surpass the championship record of 1.95m - jointly held by two all-time greats of the event in Yelena Yelesina and Mariya Lasitskene - but the 17-year-old instead asked for the bar to be raised to a world U20 record of 2.02m, a height which she has never attempted in a competition before.
“I really wanted to try this height,” said Mahuchikh, explaining why she eschewed any intermediate heights. “For example, in Gyor [at the European U18 Athletics where she cleared 1.94m] we raised the bar eight centimetres - and then it came out. The attempts in Boras were close to success, especially the third attempt. But I'm not upset, I have a gold medal and I am still looking ahead.”
Mahuchikh still has one-and-a-half seasons to challenge the world U20 record of 2.01m which is jointly held by Olga Turchak and Heike Balck but she is confident this mark is already within her compass. “I was preparing for this result [at 2.02m] but maybe in my mind I was not quite prepared for this height but I am still very happy I jumped 1.92m," she said. "Jumping 2.02m is more of a mental than a physical thing but next time my mind will be ready and I will jump it.”
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Mahuchikh has already equalled the world U20 record indoors with a 1.99m clearance this year and another milestone achievement was her victory in the Doha Diamond League on 3 May, becoming the youngest ever female athlete to win any event in the Diamond League. Mahuchikh has been consistently competitive against the seniors but her main focus with her coach Tetiana Stepanova was the European Athletics U20 Championships.
“The competition in Boras was for me the main competition of the season. Before that, I competed in events on the Diamond League which is prestigious. I was pleased that I was invited to them. When I went to those competitions for the first time last year, it was unusual for me with so many senior athletes around but now I'm very comfortable competing in this environment,” she said.
After gold in Boras, Mahuchikh will take one week off before resuming her preparations for the Ukrainian Championships where she will look to confirm her place on the national team for the IAAF World Championships in Doha which would be her first major senior championships.
Mahuchikh will turn 18 just before the championships but her ability and poise in major events is such that medals on the world stage might already be within her grasp.