Akimenko and Ivanyuk clear 2.35m to win silver and bronze in the high jump

Mikhail Akimenko
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Mikhail Akimenko cleared a lifetime best of 2.35m to win silver in the high jump at the IAAF World Athletics Championships

Reigning world high jump champion Mutaz Essa Barshim from Qatar staged a formidable comeback from a career threatening ankle injury to successfully defend his title in front of his adoring fans in the Khalifa International Stadium.

There was also a brace of medals for the two Russian athletes competing as Authorised Neutral Athletes. Former world U20 champion Mikhail Akimenko looked on the cusp of repeating this feat on the senior stage after amassing six first time clearances from 2.19m to a lifetime best of 2.35m on his debut at the IAAF World Athletics Championships.

This would have provided the second part of a Russian double in the high jump after Mariya Lasitskene successfully defended her title but Barshim kept his medal hopes alive with a clutch third-time clearance at 2.33m before matching Akimenko, who hails from the same city and trains at the same sports hall as the women's winner, at 2.35m and displacing his Russian rival with another first-time clearance at a world leading height of 2.37m.

This event hasn’t quite caught fire this summer with a number of key protagonists, including Barshim, struggling with injuries but tonight’s competition was of the highest vintage with four of the twelve finalists still left in the competition with the bar set at 2.37m.

World leader and European silver medallist Maksim Nedasekau from Belarus - considered by many as the prospective favourite for this title after clearing 2.35m at The Match in Minsk - was the first of the medal aspirants to be eliminated, settling for fourth with 2.33m.

Ilya Ivanyuk, who needed three attempts at 2.33m, shunted Nedasekau out of the medals by matching Akimenko with a first-time lifetime best clearance at 2.35m and the European bronze medallist almost extended the final with an exceptionally close third attempt at 2.37m. 

"We knew years ago these World Championships are going to be in Doha; we understood our main rival Mutaz would be in his greatest shape to fight for the gold but tonight he really surprised me. Having such support from the home crowd, he looked amazing," said Ivanyuk. "As for me, I came to Doha to overcome my personal best and I did it."

Bronze for reigning champion Perkovic in the discus

Reigning world champion Sandra Perkovic from Croatia won bronze in the discus with her first round throw of 66.72m behind the Cuban duo of Yaime Perez (69.17m) and Denia Caballero (68.44m) who have dominated this event on the Diamond League circuit this season. Perkovic missed the first half of the season due to a knee injury and the 29-year-old was affected by more physical problems in the final.

“I wanted the gold so much but it was in my head. I got some pain in my back before the final and I got an injection before the competition,” said Perkovic, who is looking forward to defending her Olympic and European titles in 2020. “I need some vacation and then next year, I want to be back. I also want to say congratulations to the Cuban athletes.”

Switzerland's Lea Sprunger just missed out on the medals in the 400m hurdles but she took down Anita Protti's long-standing national record with 54.06 behind Dalilah Muhammad who added the world title to her Olympic title, improving her world record to 52.16. Sydney McLaughlin was also inside the pre-2019 world record with 52.23 for silver.

Reigning champions Great Britain will not be relinquishing their world title in the 4x100m relay final without a fight. A full strength team anchored by Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake took the Brits to a world leading time of 37.56 - the second fastest time by a British team behind their winning time of 37.47 from 2017.

The Brits defeated runners-up Brazil by a commanding margin (37.90) and the reigning champions also had the beating of a US quartet which included Christian Coleman and Justin Gatlin, the gold and silver medallists in the individual 100m, who were third in 38.03. 

Behind an African record of 37.65 from the South African team in the second heat, France (37.88) and the Netherlands (37.91) also qualified on time for the final, the latter setting a national record and edging out the Canadians by 0.005.

The Italians also set national records in both the men’s and women’s heats. The men’s quartet just missed out on a place in the final despite running 38.11 but the Italian women qualified on time with 42.90. European champions Great Britain (42.25) and world leaders Germany (42.82) also progressed through to the final.

There will also be healthy European representation in the men's 1500m final. The three medallists from the European Championships - Norway's Jakob Ingebrigtsen, Poland's Marcin Lewandowski and Great Britain's Jake Wightman - all progressed through two competitive semifinals. Wightman will be joined by British teammates Josh Kerr and Neil Gourley as well as Sweden's Kalle Berglund.

Steven Mills for European Athletics