Hubert Lawrence, Gleaner Writer
Before a single step was taken at the 14th World Championships, I tried to pinpoint six athletes who'd make a big impact in a space titled SIX STARS OVER MOSCOW. Five of them were expected to win, and things almost worked out.
The six were Renaud Lavillenie, Abeba Aregawi, Robert Harting, Brianna Rollins, Asbel Kiprop, and Blessing Okagbare. Lavillenie entered Moscow as the world's premier pole vaulter but left with silver. Aregawi, Rollins, and Kiprop, won easily in the 1,500, the 100 metre hurdles, and the men's 1,500, respectively, as expected. Harting was tipped to win a tough battle in the men's discus and he did.
In fact, that event and the high-class throwing by Harting and Polish threat Piotr Malachowski might have been the best contest in Moscow. The German superman has now won three world titles in a row to go with his London Olympic gold medal. He doesn't get the respect he deserves.
Okagbare bit off more than she could chew. A tough schedule put her first two events, the 100m and the long jump, on the overlap. She came close to upsetting Brittany Reece in the jump, but the effort drained her. Instead of challenging Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce for the 100m title, she finished well down in the final. Later in the Championships, she was third in the 200m.
The big Nigerian didn't win anything ... except the respect of fans everywhere who know she is now one of the world's most exciting athletes.
My six shared the spotlight with Mo Farah, who did the 5,000-10,000 double, 400 metre hurdles winner Zuzanna Hejnova, decathlon victor Ashton Eaton, and a solid pair of female throwing winners. Valerie Adams dominated the shot put and Sandra Perkovic did the same in the discus. Both are undefeated this year.
Another field-event athlete bounded into contention on the last day of the Championships. Teddy Tamgho won the French gold medal that Lavillenie missed with a humungous leap in the triple jump. He flew past the 20-year-old Cuban, Pedro Pichardo, and into elite territory with his 18.04 metres. The French flier joins Jonathan Edwards and Kenny Harrison as the only men in the history of the sport to break 18 metres.
I'm tempted to elect Yelena Isinbayeva as my top star over Moscow. Five years after her repeat World record win at the Olympics, the vault queen returned to her throne in front of her adoring fans. Weeks ahead of the Championships, she had said, "I would really like to set a world record in Moscow." True to her word, after securing the gold medal, she placed the bar at a world record height of 5.07 metres. Had she made it, she would be the supreme star over Moscow.
She missed three times.
Instead, the star falls to a man who towers above all who are mentioned above. Bohdan Bondarenko, lanky Ukrainian, outfoxed a star-studded field by passing 2.38-metres in the high jump. That's a height that often wins international gold medals. In Moscow, Olympic bronze medal winners Mutaz Barshim of Qatar and Derek Drouin of Canada settled into second and third at that height. By the same token, 2.38m banished Olympic champion Ivan Ukhov to a medal-less fourth place.
Bondarenko instead passed to a meet record height of 2.41 metres and cleared it on his second try.
Very few ever surpass 2.40m in the high jump. The Ukrainian has jumped 2.41m twice this year. Like Queen Isi, he tried a world record after securing the gold medal, but his attempts at 2.46m all missed.
When he cleared 2.41m in Lausanne, he tried 2.47m because 247 are the digits to his security code at home. The record - Javier Sotomayor's towering 1993 success at 2.45m - is in danger.
That might be next - but for now, his high-flying clearance of 2.41m and his audacious pass at 2.38m make Bohdan Bondarenko my number-one star over Moscow.