Barshim flies high in Athlone
ORGANISERS of last night's International Indoor Grand Prix in Athlone brought in an especially tall high jump rig for world indoor champion Mutaz Essa Barshim and he wasn't long showing why.
Westmeath may be an unlikely place to set a world record but he had a really serious stab at it when he asked for the bar to be put up to 2.44m.
The rubber-backed 23-year-old champion from Qatar, who cleared 2.43m outdoors last year, thrilled the huge 2,000 crowd by clearing 2.41m with his first attempt to add another centimetre on the Asian record that he only set earlier this month.
And then he immediately called for the bar to be raised to 2:44m, one centimetre higher than Javier Sotomayor's world indoor record which has stood since 1989. After three great attempts it was not to be, yet Barshim's 2:41m was still the highest jump in the world this year and a whopping 26cm higher than the old stadium record.
"I'm very happy, it was all good technically and I'm improving, which is what is important. I felt the really positive power of the crowd, I love that," said the thrilling jumper who often wears baseball caps with a 'What gravity?' logo.
His performance made up for the disappointment of former world 100m record holder Asafa Powell failing to take part, after tweaking a hamstring in his warm-up.
"I was feeling really good in the warm-up but then I did a few block starts and my groin tweaked," said the former world 100m record holder.
"I couldn't run after that, it was unfortunate but that's track and field, this happens all the time," Powell said, adding that he will be back to the event next year.
The other highlight of the night was the first sub-four indoor mile in Ireland, set by American Ben Blackenship, who won in 3:56.75.
He is a training partner of Ciaran O Lionaird who was on his shoulder when they went through 800m in 1:57 but it was Denmark's Andrea Bueno who was second in 4:02.32 and Letterkenny's Danny Mooney took third in 4:03.88.
Stadium records fell all night but some of the gloss was taken off the meeting with a lot of false starts and both of the 60m finals had to be re-run.
The first race of the night set the tone when American Tianna Bartoletta (an Olympic 4x100m gold medallist) won a 60m heat in a record of 7:28.