Britain’s Morgan Lake finishes fine fourth on first evening of action in Birmingham

Maria Lasitskene was among the stars in the spotlight at Arena Birmingham on Thursday evening and she secured high jump success in style, gaining gold with the largest-ever winning margin at the IAAF World Indoor Championships.

The opening evening of the championships saw both the men’s and women’s high jump finals showcased in the centre of the arena with the programme dedicated to those two events before the women’s 3000m later on.

Russia’s Lasitskene had gone into the competition as one of the biggest favourites for gold across the entire championships and she duly delivered, with a flawless performance up to 1.96m – which would have been enough to triumph – before further clearing 2.01m on her second attempt.

She went on to try 2.07m, which would have been an outright personal best and championship record, but was unsuccessful with her three jumps.

As it was, she secured an eight centimetre margin of victory ahead of USA’s defending champion Vashti Cunningham, Italy’s Alessia Trost and Morgan Lake, as the trio each cleared 1.93m and the Briton missed out on a medal only on countback.

“Maybe it looked easy but it was not an easy victory at all,” said Lasitskene who, like men’s high jump winner Danil Lysenko, was competing as an authorised neutral athlete.

“It is very hard for me to jump without any strong opponents. If there was a girl pushing me, I am sure it could have been even higher today. Now, I have to wait for the next winter to show some high jumping indoors.”

Her performance did further demonstrate her current domination in the event, however, as it was a 38th consecutive victory for the 2017 world outdoor champion, who had claimed joint gold at the 2014 World Indoors in Sopot but had to miss the 2016 edition due to the suspension of the Russian athletics federation.

Like Lasitskene, Cunningham cleared her first two heights of 1.84m and 1.89m on her first attempts and that ultimately secured her the silver ahead of Trost, who needed two tries at her opening height.

Lake was fourth after needing all three attempts at 1.84m and the 20-year-old later described her finishing position as “bittersweet”.

“It was fourth place on countback which is annoying because I jumped the same as silver and bronze,” she added. “Those early heights, it’s shown me how much they mean.

“There are positives. It’s my season’s best and I was fourth in the world. It puts me in good stead for the Commonwealth Games.”

Lasitskene later commented on herself and Lysenko competing as authorised neutral athletes rather than on a Russian team, and – speaking through an interpreter – she said: “I realised that all the teams are wearing their national uniforms which have the name of the country on the back and we are not wearing this kind of uniform. It’s very strange, it’s a bit sad. We would like to wear our national uniform as well.

“I need to concentrate, I need just to do my job,” she continued. “Yes we have to follow these conditions, unpleasant sometimes, but this is our job and we are doing it and I am very happy that today we just proved to all the world that we can do better and we just got two gold medals.

“We are still the team, even though the name of our country is not on our backs,” she added. “We are still the team and we support each other and maybe we support each other even more in this difficult time.”

» See the March 8 issue of AW for full coverage from the IAAF World Indoor Championships