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Canada’s Derek Drouin took gold in the men’s high jump on 16 August, finishing ahead of Qatar’s Mutaz Essa Barshim and Ukraine’s Bogdan Bondarenko.
Drouin, the reigning world champion and one of three bronze medallists in the event at London 2012, jumped with a clean slate throughout the competition, only falling short at the 2.40m mark having already clinched the gold with a jump of 2.38m. Bondarenko played a tactical game, passing on two of his first four jumps, but was unable to snatch the silver from Barshim, finishing on 2.33m. Barshim claimed silver with a jump of 2.36m.
Thanks to his winning leap Drouin became the second Canadian Olympic men’s high jump champion, following in the footsteps of Duncan McNaughton in 1932. He is also the first Canadian to win a claim medal in an individual athletics event since Donovan Bailey won the men’s 100m title at Atlanta 1996.
A delighted Drouin said that as the event drew nearer he became more and more confident about his chances of victory. “A few months ago if you’d told me there was going to be a point where I would be in the top three I would have exhaled,” he said. “But the last couple of days I have been feeling so, so confident. I was coming out here to win gold.
“In the last few days I realised that I wasn’t nervous at all, I was so excited to be out there because I was confident in my preparations and also I love the Olympics and was really just taking the whole moment in. I thrive in a situation where there is a lot going on, I don’t sense a whole lot of distractions.”
He admitted the season had been difficult but said that things had come together at the right time. “I had some pretty serious injuries and there were tough decisions to be taken. I certainly made some gambles, such as dropping out of a couple of athletics meetings. It was difficult to take time off when I was gearing up for Rio, but I had to take some decisions that were in my best interests, and obviously it worked out well in the end.”
Barshim, who won bronze alongside Drouin at London 2012, became the first competitor from Qatar to ever claim an Olympic silver medal and said he was proud to have repaid the faith and support that so many people had shown in him.
“My country only has four Olympic bronze medals in our history, so it’s amazing to get silver. I was going for gold, of course, but I’m happy and proud for my country. I literally felt like everybody was behind me and I have to pay back the people that supported me. I wanted this for them more than for myself. I’m really happy and I hope they are, too.”
Bronze medallist Bondarenko said his decision to limit the number of jumps he performed was an energy-saving strategy after he suffered illness in the run-up to the competition. “I was well aware of what I was doing because 10 days ago I had a cold and a week ago started taking antibiotics. I felt weak and had a high fever so had to use my strength rationally which is why I did the minimum number of attempts.”