Suhr and Chicherova break national records in vertical jumps

USA’s leading pole vaulter Jenn Suhr and Russia’s top high jumper Anna Chicherova both scaled new heights last weekend

Jenn Suhr (Victah Sailer)

It was a weekend in which two of the world’s leading female jumpers sailed through the air to set national records as Jenn Suhr and Anna Chicherova leaped to the top of the 2012 season lists.

Pole vaulter Suhr was aiming to rebound from a disappointing season opener one week prior where she no-heighted. But at the New Balance Boston Indoor Grand Prix last weekend she made no such mistakes and dominated the competition with her 4.88m clearance.

The performance bettered her own American indoor record and usurped Britain’s Holly Bleasdale as the world leader for the 2012 indoor season and at No.2 on the world indoor all-time list.

Suhr was the stand-out performer in Boston, although world 5000m champion Mo Farah had been hoping to put in a similarly crowd-pleasing display. That plan did not quite work out as Britain’s top athlete of 2011 found himself crashing to the track in the closing stages of the men’s mile, just as he was making a decisive move. Farah had to make do with fourth place with a PB of 3:57.92 as world finalist Ciaran O’Lionaird strode to victory in 3:56.01.

On the distance-heavy schedule in Boston, world-leading performances came from Meseret Defar, who won the women’s 3000m in 8:33.57, and Caleb Ndiku, who beat a quality field in the men’s 3000m on his debut at the distance to win in 7:38.29. Britain’s Andy Baddeley finished eighth with his second-fastest indoor time ever, 7:47.09.

Of the shorter events in Boston, the best was the 400m victory from Kirani James, the young world champion winning with a world-leading 45.96.

After two international high jump wins with 2.00m leaps, world champion Anna Chicherova made a big step up in Arnstadt to show that she will be just as formidable in 2012 as she was in 2011. Competing at the High Jump With Music meeting in the German town, the Russian won with a leap of 2.06m to break her country’s national record and go to No.3 on the world indoor all-time list.

With Irina Gordeyeva finishing second (1.97m) and Aleksey Dmitrik winning from Ivan Ukhov in the men’s competition (both clearing 2.30m), it was a good day for Russian jumpers. But Belgium’s Tia Hellebaut took another step forward in her second career comeback, finishing third with 1.97m – her best jump since 2008, the year in which she won the Olympic title and announced her short-lived retirement.

The other big meeting of the past weekend was the Russian Winter in Moscow. Russian jumpers were once again on form with Olympic champion Andrey Silnov clearing 2.36m to win the men’s high jump, and Aleksandr Menkov leaping a personal best of 8.24m in the men’s long jump – both of them being world-leading marks. Darya Klishina won the women’s long jump with a season’s best of 6.86m as Britain’s Shara Proctor leapt 6.60m for third place, consolidating her No.3 spot on the UK all-time indoor list.

But there were superb performances on the track too, particularly in the rarely-run 600m. European indoor champion Adam Kszczot produced the second-fastest time in history to win in 1:15.26 from former Olympic champion Yuriy Borzakovskiy. In a similarly high-quality women’s 60m hurdles, Lolo Jones showed exactly why she’s a two-time world indoor champion, winning with a world-leading 7.89.

Elsewhere in the sprints, Dwain Chambers opened his 2012 campaign with a loss as USA’s Josh Norman won the 60m by a whisker in 6.63 to the Briton’s 6.64. Former UK champion Simeon Williamson clocked 6.65 in the heats but was disqualified from the final for a false start.

The women’s 60m was won by European indoor champion Olesya Povh, while Aleksandra Fedoriva – initially known as a hurdler, then a flat sprinter, now a 400m runner – made a breakthrough over two laps, winning the 400m in 51.46.

That performance from Fedoriva was not quite a world-leading mark, however, as that had been set a few days earlier by Vania Stambolova at the Vienna Indoor Classic. The Bulgarian ran 51.26 – her fastest indoor 400m since returning from her drugs ban – with Britain’s Nadine Okyere setting a personal best of 53.43 in second.

Further PBs came from Joe Thomas and Greg Cackett. Thomas, fresh from his victory at the Aviva International, enjoyed another gun-to-tape win in the 800m and improved on his PB from Glasgow with 1:47.28. Sprinter Cackett, meanwhile, won the 60m in 6.69.

Elsewhere in international meetings, Demetrius Pinder improved his own 200m world lead and Bahamian national record with 20.50 in Albuquerque. Outdoors, world silver medallist Nadine Muller produced her second 66m+ throw of the year so far, winning in Kienbaum with 66.07m, while German team-mate Martin Wierig won the men’s competition with 64.72m. And at the All-Comers Meet in California, Britain’s Carl Myerscough won a shot-and-discus double with marks of 20.03m and 60.90m.

Back in the UK, the main meetings of the weekend were the McCain City Challenge in Sheffield and the Birmingham Indoor Games. At the former, European heptathlon champion Jessica Ennis finished third in the long jump with 6.19m. Winner Katerina Johnson-Thompson – considered by some to one day be the heir to Ennis’s throne – won with a UK junior record of 6.39m.

Ennis won the 60m hurdles in Sheffield with a very respectable 8.05, which was a UK-leading mark for a matter of hours until British record-holder Tiffany Porter bettered it in Illinois with a season’s best of 8.00.

At the Birmingham Indoor Games Andy Pozzi continued his exciting breakthrough with another personal best in the sprint hurdles. The 19-year-old clocked 7.62 for a comfortable victory. In the 60m flat, Richard Kilty made a remarkable leap forward with a personal best of 6.61. Both his and Pozzi’s performance take them to the top of the UK indoor lists for 2012.

Olympic champion Christine Ohuruogu opened her season at the Birmingham Indoor Games. Competing in the women’s 60m, Ohuruogu ran 7.74 in the heats and 7.80 in the semi finals – some way short of her 7.39 PB – and missed out on making the final.

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