Stunning performances from Ukhov and Maslak in Prague

European records for Ukhov and Maslak in Prague
European Athletics

Russia's Ivan Ukhov leaped to new heights tying Patrick Sjöberg's 2.42m European high jump record at the International Prague Indoor meeting last night.

An amazing night at the O2 Arena lived up to all expectations at the International Prague Indoor meeting as Ivan Ukhov equalled the European high jump record - before the story the Czech Republic crowd hoped would  happen.

In the final event, Pavel Maslak soared to victory in the 500m in a European record time to set himself up brilliantly for a bid for 400m gold at the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Sopot next week.

In 12 months time, Prague will be all the talk for Europe’s track and field stars as the European Athletics Indoor Championships takes place in this O2 Arena, and there were thumbs up from all around for the quality of the venue ahead of the major winter event of 2015.

As Great Britain’s Jenny Meadows said after winning the 800m: “I am getting towards the end of my career but it is a beautiful arena and it might tempt me to carry on for another year.”

What a few months it has been, though, for Russia’s Olympic champion Ukhov whose 2.42m was the greatest indoor jump by a European athlete for 26 years.

Incredibly, today, Wednesday February 26th, is the anniversary in 1988 when Germany’s Carlo Thranhardt cleared that height in Berlin, but now Ukhov is alongside him after a memorable performance.

He is just one centimetre away from the indoor world record held by Cuban Javier Sotamayor since 1989.

Ukhov attempted that height here but missed out, yet no doubt will make another major bid for it in Sopot in an indoor season where he has jumped 2.40m, 2.41m and now this history-equalling height as he beat his Russian teammate Aleksey Dmitrik, who was second with 2.33m.

At the European Athletics Indoor Championships here, Maslak will be one of the biggest names. He will be the defending 400m champion after his glory in Gothenburg last year and his ‘hero’ status in the Czech Republic is growing all the time.

He cemented that reputation even further with his blistering performance to smash the European 500m record time of 1:00.86 that Israel’s Donald Sanford had set only last month.

Maslak was just sensational as he won in a stunning 1:00.36, beating Conrad Williams by over a second with the Briton crossing the line in 1:01.59.

"Five hundred metres is different in that it is the need for speed and endurance. The last one hundred were the worst," he said.

Smiles all round but perhaps no-one was happier than the high jump double world champion Blanka Vlasic who showed she has not lost her sensational ability as she signalled her major return to the sport.

In her second competition this winter after finally recovering from the Achilles problems which have wrecked the last two seasons, the Croatian soared over 2.00m to land a brilliant win and looked good as she chased 2.02m.

Her opening event of the year had seen her clear just 1.90m and she was just delighted.

"Today was a great meet and I did not expect to jump this high and I surprised myself, I was so insecure before this competition," said Vlasic. "It will be amazing to come back next year if everything goes well and I stay healthy.

"At training I always jump only around 1.90m. I still don`t have a stable technique and enough training jumps. But I focused on my technique and the people cheered me up, so that helped me a lot. I am happy to be back on track.” 

Vlasic cleared 1.85m and 1.90m both at the first attempt before a failure at 1.94m, which she went over on her second go.  She achieved 1.97m with one jump and then cleared 2.00m at the third try as she beat Croatian teammate Ana Simic who was second with 1.90m.

In the 300m, the crowd was treated to a home victory from Denisa Rosolova who won in a meeting record of 37.04 while Russia’s Stepan Poistogov took the 800m in 1:48.55.

And as Britain’s Tiffany Porter won the 60m hurdles in 7.91 on this fast track, she looked ahead to those European Athletics Indoor Championships in 2015 and said: “This is my first time running here, I was able to put up a season’s best and hopefully this won't be my last time. I love it here.”