Spellbinding high jump duel raises the bar
China's Chen Long won the gold in the men's high jump after a tough duel with Australia's Oscar Miers. The two athletes ended up jumping higher than any athlete in the previous Youth Olympic Games.
Two athletes battled it out for gold in the high jump final, which became the highlight of the athletics competition on Sunday. On one side it was the overwhelming favourite Chen Long of China, who jumped 2 metres and 13 centimetres in the first stage of the competition. On the other, Australia's Oscar Miers, who finished seventh in stage one, eight centimetres behind Chen.
Chen and Miers matched and bettered each other jump by jump with the eyes of the spectators glued on their ambitious attempts. They finished the competition with 2.22 metres - a personal best for both and the highest height reached in Youth Olympic Games history. Ukraine's Oleg Doroshchuk completed the podium.
"I am very excited about the result and surprised by my rival who has done so well," said gold medallist Chen. "To beat a record at an Olympic Games is an incomparable sensation that I was not expecting to get." Chen credited the enthusiasm of the spectators for his record-setting performance: "The people here are much warmer than in China. Feeling that they are applauding you before your jump makes the athlete very strong."
For his part, Miers stressed that he was confident about the final despite his lacklustre result in the first stage of the competition. "On Thursday I was injured and the rain and the wind had affected me since I'm not used to competing in those conditions," he said. "Honestly, I did not come to Buenos Aires to win prizes. I only intended to enjoy the experience and give my best."
In the women's long jump and pole vault disciplines the winners were Belgium's Maite Beernaert and Germany's Leni Freyja Wildgrube, respectively. "Unlike Thursday when it was rainy and cold, today the weather was sunny and people were very supportive and that helped us a lot," said Wildgrube. "I felt very comfortable. Winning the gold was my goal because I knew that I was the favorite to achieve this because I am No.1 in the ranking."
Long jump winner Beernaert, on the other hand, was surprised at her golden result. "Today is the most important day of my life," she said. "I did not imagine this moment and until I got the medal, I did not believe it was true."