The big question ahead of the 26th edition of the Banskobystrická latka – the famous Banska Bystrica indoor high jump meeting in Slovakia – is: can Yaroslava Mahuchikh improve on her own world indoor U20 high jump record on Tuesday?
The super-talented Ukrainian high jumper has already added to the record (subject to ratification) with clearances of 2.01m at home in Lviv and then 2.02m in the German town of Karlsruhe 10 days ago and so anticipation is high, especially after her near-misses at 2.04m in the latter competition, that another record maybe within her grasp at the European Athletics Indoor Permit Meeting in central Slovakia.
“I hope I can do it,” she said modestly at the pre-meeting press conference in the city’s ornate town hall.
“I feel good and I have had a good 10 days training in Estonia after Karlsruhe,” she added. “I competed here last year so I know the arena and know and like the surface.”
Big jumps have become almost routine at the meeting with the women’s winning height in the Stiavnicky Sport Hall, which has a surface provided by European Athletics Green Inspiration Partner Mondo, being two metres or better for nine of the last 12 years.
However, Mahuchikh is not the only top female jumper on display in Banska Bystrica. Also, in the women’s field is her compatriot Yulia Levchenko, the 2017 World Athletics Championships silver medallist, and Lithuania’s 2017 European indoor champion Airine Palsyte.
Into the bargain two former Banska Bystrica winners return, Italy’s Alessia Trost and Ukraine’s Iryna Herashchenko, who triumphed in 2015 and 2017 respectively.
Great Britain’s 2020 world leader Tom Gale will face a packed men’s field that includes 2019 Banska Bystrica winner Japan’s Naoto Tobe, who lead the 2019 world indoor lists, as well as the likes of Belarus’ 2019 European U23 champion Maksim Nedasekau and China’s 2015 World Athletics Championships silver medallist Zhang Guowei.
“I’m looking forward to jumping here as I’ve heard a lot about the surface,” reflected the 21-year-old Briton, who flew well clear at a career best of 2.33m in the Czech town of Hustopece on Saturday.
“Being the world leader is something that I’m very proud of but I am also aware that there are a lot of very talented guys in this competition who haven’t really started their indoor season’s and that’s keeping my feet on the ground.”
Gale made his breakthrough in 2017 when he came away from a historic contest at the European Athletics U20 Championships in Grosseto with a bronze medal and later that summer cleared 2.30m.
After a stagnant 2018 he came back to form last year with a silver at the European U23s in Gavle. “It was after that I made a firm commitment. I said to myself, ‘This is really what I want to do’ and I think I’ve improved my professional approach in the last six months. I’m sleeping properly, eating properly and that has contributed to my improvement.”
"Not only do I want to jump high indoors, I’ve got clear goals for the summer: the final in Tokyo at the Olympics and then a medal at the Europeans in Paris,” he added.
The men’s field has 11 men who have jumped over 2.30m in their lives and two other men, in addition to Gale, who have done it this year: Poland’s 2017 European indoor champion Sylwester Bednarek and Bahamas’ Jamal Wilson, who were second and third behind Gale in Hustopece at the weekend.
Live streaming with an English commentary will be available worldwide (no geo-blocking) of the entire meeting via https://tveso.sk/bbl2020/ with the women’s competition starting at 1600 CET and the men’s competition at 1900 CET.
Full start lists, timetable, event history can be found of the meeting website (in Slovak): https://bblatka.sk/