Magic Moments: Nedasekau breaks long-standing championship record in Grosseto

Belarus' 2017 European U20 high jump champion Maksim Nedasekau
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Belarus' 2017 European U20 high jump champion Maksim Nedasekau

Back in 1977, the top films of the year were the first Star Wars movie and Saturday Night Fever while the likes of The Eagles and Boney M had massive international music hits, and high jumper Vladimir Yashchenko – wearing the red vest of the now defunct Soviet Union – went over 2.30m for a championship record at what is now the European Athletics U20 Championships.

The cultural reference points are mentioned to give a sense of how venerable Yaschenko’s mark was and what an achievement it was for Maksim Nedasekau to break it in a competition that was one of the highlights of the Grosseto 2017 European Athletics U20 Championships in July.

The Belarussian arrived in the Italian city as the marginal favourite due to topping the pre-Grosseto U20 lists with his 2.26m when winning his national senior title two weeks before.

He had a clean sheet in the competition up to an including equalling his personal best of 2.26m but after one failure at 2.28m, and having seen Ukraine’s Dmytro Nikitin and Great Britain’s Tom Gale clear that height, he gambled and passed.

After a first time miss at 2.30m – and with three men attempting that height, it was the best continental U20 competition ever – he then went clear on his last remaining attempt to equal Yashchenko’s mark - the oldest one on the books on the men’s side and probably the last surviving major international championship record by a straddle jumper – before then, amazingly, producing an inspired third time clearance at 2.33m.

His winning jump was the best by an U20 athlete this millennium and he moves up to equal seventh on the all-time lists alongside such esteemed company as former world record holders Sweden’s Patrik Sjoberg and China’s Zhu Jianhua.

“I had said all season that I wanted to win at the European championships but I could not imagine that it would be so difficult to win. I thought that 2.26m or 2.28m would be {good enough} the first place but, as it turned out, 2.28m was far from the title,” reflected Nedasekau.

“For me, competition is very important. It spurs me on. Without competition, I would not have cleared 2.33m. This made me jump higher and higher,” he added, paying tribute to the efforts of Nikitin and Gale, who took the silver and bronze medals respectively.

Now his attention has already turned to the Berlin 2018 European Athletics Championships this summer. Turning just 20 on 21 January, Nedasekau will be among the youngest jumpers in the German capital but he has shown that he has the ability to match the majority of his elders.