Qatari clears 2.43m as high jumpers attack world record at a terrific end to the 2014 Diamond League series in Brussels

The men’s high jump is enjoying a golden era and it looks only a matter of time before Javier Sotomayor’s world record of 2.45m falls. It nearly happened on Friday night in Brussels as two of the athletes leading the renaissance, Mutaz Essa Barshim and Bohdan Bondarenko, treated fans to a titanic tussle which included five attempts at 2.46m.

Ultimately, Barshim settled for a mere 2.43m – a height only the great Cuban Sotomayor has beaten – to win the contest as world champion Bondarenko cleared 2.40m before clipping the bar at 2.43m and then, twice, at 2.46m.

So with victory going to the 23-year-old from Qatar, the contest surpassed the memorable Diamond League clash in New York in June when both men cleared 2.42m before failed attempts at a 2.46m world record height.

Bondarenko’s 2.42m from New York three months ago saw him equal Patrick Sjoberg’s European record. Yet the Ukrainian fell short of that feat in Brussels as he saw rival Barshim set Asian and Diamond League records, plus a world leading mark for 2014, not to mention the Diamond League title for the event.

For fans turned off by the presence of Justin Gatlin, Tyson Gay and Asafa Powell in the men’s 100m, the high jump proved a fitting distraction as it overshadowed the shamed sprinters. All three have returned from anti-doping violations and boos rang loud and clear on social media as athletes, ex-athletes and armchair athletes voiced their disgust.

It was impossible to ignore Gatlin’s performances at the Van Damme Memorial, though, as he scorched to 9.77 and 19.71 victories over 100m and 200m in the space of 60 sizzling minutes – the fastest one-day sprint double in history.

The 32-year-old American is particularly unpopular after failing drugs tests in 2001 and 2006. Winner of Olympic and world 100m titles in 2004 and 2005, he spent 2006-2010 on the sidelines but has returned to his best form this year, maintaining an unbeaten streak and in Brussels he equalled his 100m PB before just one hour later falling narrowly short of his 200m best of 19.68, which was set in Monaco in July.

On the eve of the meeting Usain Bolt admitted in an interview that he would probably have lost to Gatlin if he had raced him this year. The Jamaican might well be correct. In both races in Brussels, Gatlin was well clear of his rivals. The 100m, for example, saw Mike Rodgers well adrift in second in 9.93, Powell third in 9.95, Commonwealth champion Kemar Bailey-Cole fourth in 9.96 and European champion James Dasaolu fifth in a season’s best 10.00 as Gay clocked 10.01 behind.

Yet such was the high standard of this final Diamond League of 2014, there was much more to this meeting than the men’s high jumpers and sprinters. Superb performances peppered the evening – a testament to athletes who are still going strong at the end of a long season which, for some, has included two major championships.

The men’s 3000m steeplechase, for example, saw Jairus Birech break eight minutes with 7:58.41 – one of seven world leads on the night. The Kenyan impressively coasted away from his rivals in the closing stages as European 1500m and steeplechase champion Mahiedine Makhissi-Benabbad ran 8:03.23 and Evan Jager clocked an American record of 8:04.71 in third.

A few days after Anita Wlodarczyk had smashed the world hammer record in Berlin, Valerie Adams and Barbora Spotakova set world-leading marks in the women’s throws in Brussels. New Zealander Adams threw 20.59m in the shot while Czech thrower Spotakova won the javelin with 67.99m.

Similarly dominant was Caterine Ibarguen in the triple jump. The Colombian has been unbeaten for the past two years and in Brussels she jumped 14.98m in the final round to seal yet another victory.

Renaud Lavillenie is another undoubted star of 2014 who showed his class yet again. The Frenchman cleared 5.93m to secure victory before attempting 6.03m. Behind, one of a handful of Brits at the meeting, Luke Cutts, cleared 5.55m in eighth.

German discus legend Robert Harting, meanwhile, was not quite as comfortable as he beat Piotr Malachowski of Poland by 22cm with 67.57m.

In one of two disability athletics events on the programme there was a world record in what organisers called the “blade runners’ 200m” as American Richard Browne sped to 21.62 in the T44 category.

There was no world record in the rarely run 1000m, however, as Adam Kszczot held off Ethiopian Mohammed Aman and fellow Pole Marcin Lewandowski to win in 2:15.71 but after going through 800m in 1:48.87 – far too slow to attack Noah Ngeny’s 2:11.96 world best.

Just as close a race, but considerably more bizarre, was Taoufik Makhloufi’s victory over Silas Kiplagat in the men’s 1500m. The Algerian Olympic champion edged the Kenyan by two hundredths of a second in 3:31.78 but only after both men had appeared to celebrate prematurely. Makhloufi waved to a camera man halfway down the home straight and Kiplagat seemingly punched the air with a stride to go. In the Algerian’s case it followed a similar incident in an 800m in Shanghai in May when he celebrated early by sticking his tongue out and was overtaken at the finish line by Robert Biwott.

There was no such drama in the sprint hurdles as Pascal Martinot-Lagarde returned to winning ways – the Frenchman winning in 13.08 as Britain’s William Sharman clocked 13.31 in sixth – while Kirsti Castlin of the United States took the women’s race in 12.76.

Even more impressive was Allyson Felix as she cruised to victory in the women’s 200m with a world lead of 22.02 ahead of Myriam Soumare and Dafne Schippers as Britain’s Jodie Williams was a tired-looking eighth in 22.92.

Elsewhere, Sanya Richards-Ross of the United States ran 49.98 to win the women’s 400m, while Kaliese Spencer of Jamaica took the 400m hurdles in 54.12 with Britain’s Eilidh Child third.

In the women’s 800m, Brenda Martinez got some great scalps as she ran 1:58.84 to beat Lynsey Sharp – the Briton just missing her PB with 1.58.94 – together with Commonwealth gold medallist Eunice Sum of Kenya and European champion Marima Arzamasova of Belarus.

Like a number of athletes in the Belgium city, Child, Sharp and Williams were among those preparing to travel straight on to Newcastle to compete in the following day’s Puma Great North CityGames as this busy 2014 athletics season takes a brief breath and moves on to the next stop.

>> An in-depth report from Brussels, plus photographs and full results will appear in the Sept 11 issue of Athletics Weekly magazine