London 2017: Lasitskene leads athletes jumping for gold, and maybe more

With the best athletes in the world heading for London for the upcoming World Athletics Championships, there are several who will be hoping to take home gold in the stadium which hosted the Olympics just five years ago.

Away from the track, some of the best head-to-head’s which will take place at the Olympic Stadium will be battled out by the best jumpers in the world.

There have been some dominant performer's this season leading up to the Championships, and they will be under huge pressure to continue their fine performances with a world title on the line.

Lasitskene and Barshim heavy favourites heading into high jump

As far as overwhelming favourites go in London, Mariya Lasitskene is as close as they come in the women’s high-jump. The reigning champion is the only woman to have jumped over two metres in 2017, and has won all six Diamond League meetings so far this season with her best performance coming in Lausanne where she posted a Diamond League record leap of 2.06 metres.

Lasitskene has a point to prove somewhat after having her application disapproved for the Olympics in Rio last summer, and if she were to strike gold she would become the first to do so while competing under the neutral flag. The 24-year-old has already attempted a world record jump this season, and coming into this competition in prime form could see her do so once again on the biggest stage.  

In the men’s competition, Mutaz Essa Barshim hasn’t been quite as dominant as Lasitskene, but still heads to London as clear favourite. Owning five of the six highest jumps this year, Barshim will hope to finally turn his natural talent into championship gold.

Mutaz Essa Barshim is owner of the 2017 world lead (image source: Francois Nel/Staff/Getty Images)

Having been the silver medallist in Rio last year, and also at the Moscow World Championships, the Qatari may never get a better chance to shake the bridesmaid tag. A repeat of his world leading effort of 2.38 which he produced in Oslo would go some way towards capturing the gold, with proven championship performers Bohdan Bondarenko and Britain’s Robbie Grabarz among the contenders to take down returning champion Derek Drouin.

Ibargüen’s reign of supremacy under threat from young South American foe

Two-time reigning triple-jump World Champion, and Rio Olympic gold medallist Caterine Ibargüen has been one of the closest things to a dead cert over the previous few years, dominating the women’s triple jump.

The Colombian’s number one ranking however, has come under threat this season from the neighbouring Venezuela in the form of Yulimar Rojas. The 21-year-old picked up silver in Rio last year, and was the only other women close to jumping over 15.00 metres in the final which Ibargüen managed on two of her six attempts in capturing gold.

Although neither woman has achieved the 15m mark so far this season, Rojas’s leap of 14.96 in Andujar back in June is a world lead and after beating Ibargüen in their first DL meeting of the year in Rome she had set out her stool.

Rojas and Ibarguen shared the podium in Rio last year (image source: Johannes Eisele/Staff/Getty Images)

Ibargüen, who is 12 years Rojas’ elder, has fought back since though, winning in Rabat before producing a season’s best jump of 14.86 at the most recent meeting in Monaco to beat the Venezuelan leaper by 3cm’s.

Having been pushed by the European contingent in Beijing to retain her crown two years ago, this time around the battle between Ibargüen and World Championship debutant Rojas will be one of the most highly anticipated head-to-heads in London over the next fortnight.

Taylor still gunning for Edwards’ long-standing best

While Ibargüen and Rojas battle it out for gold, the men’s triple-jump could be more of a battle between Christian Taylor and the world record.

After jumping 18.11 at the Eugene DL meet back in May, Taylor laid down a marker for the upcoming season which nobody has looked like clearing. The double Olympic and double World Champion heads to London as overwhelming favourite to win his third major title in three years.

Jonathan Edwards’ 18.29 world record from 1995 which was set at the Gothenburg world champs has stood the test of time, but if Taylor can be pushed by compatriot Will Claye (17.91 SB), the 27-year-old New Yorker could bring down the long-standing all-time best. One man who won’t be there to challenge is 2013 & 2015 runner-up Pedro Pablo Pichardo of Cuba who is unable to compete in London.

South African duo look best bet to grab Rutherford’s crown

Injury has ruled out defending champion Greg Rutherford, which will dampen the spirits of the home crowd, but they should still be in for thrilling men’s long jump over the opening weekend.

Luvo Manyonga was a dominant force during the early part of the season, before an ankle injury he suffered in Stockholm derailed his form. Four jumps of 8.60+ showed why many were pencilling him in for gold, and the 26-year-old will be hoping to go one better than in Rio, when he missed out on Olympic gold by one centimetre.

Luvo Manyonga started the season like a house on fire (image source: Jessica Gow/Getty Images)

The man who beat Manyonga to gold in Rio, Jeff Henderson has come into some fine form which first came to fruition at US trials, before he went on to win the London Diamond League meeting with jump of 8.17. Another South African, Rushwal Samaai won the most recent Diamond event in Rabat with a leap of 8.35 just ahead of Henderson’s American teammate Jarrion Lawson (8.33) and Samaai has four of the top ten registered jumps this year making him a significant threat.

On the women’s side, Brittney Reese & Tianna Bartoletta are carrying the best form, with the American duo both having produced jumps of over seven metres during June. The biggest threat to Reese & Bartoletta will most likely come from European champion Ivana Španovic who gained confidence in winning the recent Anniversary Games with an outdoor  season’s best of 6.88metres.  

Pole Vault titles up for grabs

The most unpredictable jumping events in London may just be the two pole vault finals. In the men’s competition, Sam Kendricks has had the best build-up having won the first four Diamond League meetings this season. However the last two have seen the Polish begin to assert themselves with Pawel Wojciechowski winning in Rabat, before his compatriot Piotr Lisek claimed victory in Monaco. Kendricks meanwhile, remains the only man to jump six metres outdoors this season and if he can bring that form with him to the English capital the gold should be his.

One competitor never to be discounted is the diminutive Frenchman Renaud Lavillenie. Having won World Championship bronze on three occasions (2009, 11 & 15) and silver in 2013, he still needs the world title to complete his set of gold medals, with a season’s best of 5.87 showing he may have what it takes to replicate the success he enjoyed in London five years ago.

With only four centimetres covering the season’s bests of the top six women in the world, even predicting a top three would be close to impossible. Olympic and European champion Ekaterina Stefanidi has the world lead of 4.85metres which she set in Rome during one of her three Diamond League victories this year, and the Greek woman is almost certain to improve on her 15th place finish at the 2015 World champs.

As winner two years ago, Cuba’s Yarisley Silva is back to defend her crown, while the American challenge will come from Sandi Morris and Jennifer Suhr who sit second and third on the world lead list. Breakout Rio bronze medallist Eliza McCartney of New Zealand, and Britain’s Holly Bradshaw are the other two women to have jumped over 4.80 in 2017 and both will be hoping to upset the odds.