One of the most stacked high jump fields in history is about to take to the track at Rio 2016, with Canadian Derek Drouin as an Olympic medal contender.
The reigning world champion, Drouin, is a returning Olympic medallist from London 2012, where he shared bronze with Mutaz Barshim of Qatar and Great Britain’s Robert Grabarz. The silver medal winner in London was Erik Kynard.
All four of those men have returned for a shot at Olympic gold in Brazil. The field though, gets even deeper.
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Bohdan Bondarenko of Ukraine, a world champion himself in 2013 and silver medallist to Drouin at last year’s worlds also figures into the conversation for Olympic gold.
Another top jumper to watch is Bondarenko’s compatriot Andriy Protsenko.
What makes this collection of jumpers particularly intriguing is that four from this group have cleared the elusive 2.40 metre mark at some point in their career.
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Not since Barcelona 1992 have so many 2.40m jumpers gathered at one Olympic final. In Spain that year Cuba’s Javier Sotomayor won gold with Sweden’s Patrik Sjoberg taking silver. Both jumped 2.34 with the Cuban taking the top prize with a cleaner card (Sotomayor cleared on his first attempt, Sjoberg didn’t). The other three members of the 2.40m club were former Soviet Union jumper Igor Paklin (who didn’t qualify for the final), Sorin Matei of Romania (finished 13th), and American Charles Austin, who was eighth.
Fast forward 20 or more years, Barshim’s 2.43m clearance made in September of 2014 is the second highest of all time behind the 23-year-old 2.45m world record by Sotomayor, set a year after the Olympics in Barcelona.
Bondarenko is among a handful of jumpers topping out at 2.42m all-time, including Sjoberg.
Drouin and Protsenko reached 2.40m less than three months apart in 2014, that’s the highest Austin and Matei ever managed, while Pakin went up to 2.41.
While Barshim and Bondarenko may have the edge in centimetres, Drouin’s medal collection – and therefore his ability to compete with the best when it counts – speaks volumes about his chances in Rio.
Since winning Olympic bronze in London, Drouin has found two consecutive world championship podiums (bronze in 2013 and gold two years later) and took Pan Am and Commonwealth titles. On big occasions, Drouin has delivered.
In 2016, it won’t get bigger than Tuesday night.