21 May, 2015

A possible record for Barshim and Bondarenko at MEETING AREVA

The air of the summits is set to blow in the Stade de France, on Saturday 4 July 2015, at the MEETING AREVA. In addition to Renaud Lavillenie, king of world pole-vaulting and a familiar face at the French stage of the IAAF Diamond League, two other athletes are making serious headway at very high altitude: Qatari Mutaz Essa Barshim and Ukrainian Bohdan Bondarenko. The two high-jump prodigies who, for the past two seasons, have been embroiled in a duel, could well smash the world record in the discipline - 2.45m by Cuban Javier Sotomayor on 27 July 1993 - and earn a place in the history books

Judge for yourselves. With a jump of 2.43m in September 2014 in Brussels, Mutaz Essa Barshim currently ranks second in the world, of all time. Bohdan Bondarenko, the author of a 2.42m jump in June 2014 in New York, stands proudly in third place. The former has already cleared 2.40m in style on five occasions. The second has done better still, with a total of seven jumps equal to or in excess of this height. Their face-off at Paris’ Stade de France, for the 2015 edition of the MEETING AREVA, promises to be one of the highlights of the evening. However, more good news has just been confirmed to the organisers and it might well shake up the profile of a competition that one might all too readily put down to a duel: Russian athlete Ivan Ukhov, Olympic champion in 2012 and holder of a 2.42m record, will also join the fray. As such, there are great expectations for this contest, along with the performance by Renaud Lavillenie in the pole vault and, of course, the presence of Usain Bolt in the 100m.

Ten key things to know about Mutaz Essa Barshim and Bohdan Bondarenko

·        A native of Kharkiv, in the Ukraine, Bohdan Bondarenko started out in athletics as a high jumper, but he waited until he was 13 years of age before giving it a go. In his younger days, he had a real passion for… traditional dancing. Born and raised in Doha, in Qatar, Mutaz Essa Barshim entered the athletics stage in the walking competition, a discipline shared by his father. Following on from that he geared himself towards middle-distance running, before trying his hand at jumping, long jump, triple jump and high jump.

  • Mutaz Essa Barshim will have recently turned 24 on 4 July, the day of the Paris stage. His birthday is 24 June. Bohdan Bondarenko will celebrate his 26th birthday on the final day of the world championships in Beijing, on Sunday 30 August 2015.
  •  The two rivals are both lean and slender. Mutaz Essa Barshim, the lightest, stands 1.88m tall and weighs in at 68/69kg. Bohdan Bondarenko measures 1.97m and weighs 77kg.
  • Mutaz Essa Barshim and Bohdan Bondarenko have never participated in the MEETING AREVA before. The 2015 edition will give them a chance to discover the Stade de France.
  • The Ukrainian is coached by his father, Viktor, a former 7,500-point decathlete and holder of a 2.16m high jump record. The Qatari trains with a Polish coach Stanislaw Szczyrba, dividing up his time between Doha, Sweden and Poland.
  • Mutaz Essa Barshim and Bohdan Bondarenko have vied against one another at no fewer than seventeen official competitions. Prior to the Shanghai meeting, this Sunday, they were tied on points with eight victories apiece. Today, Barshim has the edge since he is winning the IAAF Diamond League Meeting contest with a jump of 2.38m ahead of… Bondarenko, who has a racked up a ‘mere’ 2.32m.
  • The Qatari and the Ukrainian secured the World Junior Championship title one after the other. Bohdan Bondarenko took the win in 2008, Mutaz Essa Barshim matched that performance two years later.
  • In Javier Sotomayor’s view, the two athletes are now up to the challenge of breaking his world record. The Cuban reckons that Mutaz Essa Barshim has the “the best technique”, but Bohdan Bondarenko makes up for that with “greater speed in the run-up and take-off”. To his mind, today one or other of them has “the mental strength to succeed” in surpassing him, though he agrees that on this score the Ukrainian has a slight advantage due to being “more daring and capable of taking risks.”
  • In July 2013, at the Meeting in London, Bohdan Bondarenko asked the umpire of the competition to set the bar at 2.47m, some two centimetres higher than the world record. It created a stir but he explained all at the end of the competition: “247 is the entry code for the door to my building”. Mutaz Essa Barshim reckons he can clear 2.50m one day. “But I’ll have to go about it step by step, by mentally preparing myself to attack these heights”, he says.
  • Beyond athletics, Mutaz Essa Barshim is passionate about basketball. He also likes being at home (he lives with his parents in Doha), with family, watching films and documentaries. Bohdan Bondarenko admits that he’s crazy about line fishing. “If I hadn’t been a high jumper, I would’ve liked to have become a fisherman”, he explains.