Ukrainian high jumper Mahuchikh takes gold in emotional close to World Athletics Championship

By Isaac M August 28, 2023

Yaroslava Mahuchikh, the best high jumper in the war-torn country of Ukraine, won a gold medal Sunday night to bring an emotional close to the track and field world championships.

The very last person competing in the final event of the nine-day meet, Mahuchikh cleared 2.01 meters (6 feet, 7 inches) to win her first major outdoor title and set herself up as a favorite at the Paris Olympics next year.

Her evening came to a close moments after Femke Bol of the Netherlands, whose fall on opening night cost her team a medal in the mixed 4×400 relay, made up some 20 meters down the homestretch to win the women’s version of that relay.

But no medal packed a bigger emotional punch than the one Mahuchikh earned for Ukraine. The 21-year-old, wearing eyeliner colored the same blue and yellow as her country’s flag, had been training in Germany. Now she’s in Belgium, where her mother, sister and niece also are living. All these moves came since she was forced to leave quickly from her hometown of Dnipro shortly after the war began last year.

She has been home for only a few weeks over Christmas, and Dnipro, which was relatively safe at the outset of the fighting with Russia, has become a target in the war.

Mahuchikh was one of 29 Ukrainian athletes competing at worlds in neighboring Hungary this week. It marked the first gold medal for Ukraine and the second overall, adding to a silver won by Maryna Bekh-Romanchuk two nights earlier in the triple jump.

Mahuchikh sealed the win after jumping 2 centimeters higher than Australian Eleanor Patterson, who beat her last year in Eugene, Oregon. With the gold medal secure, Mahuchikh had the bar set to 2.07 to try for a personal best.

After missing twice, she waited for the end of Bol’s amazing comeback to make her last attempt. With Bol and her teammates in a dogpile celebrating on the track, Mahuchikh failed to clear. Still, it was a win, and a few moments later, she was smiling, holding her country’s flag aloft and waiting for her medal.

The rest of the days winners included Neeraj Chopra of India in the javelin throw; Winfred Mutile Yavi of Bahrain in the women’s steeplechase; Jakob Ingebrigtsen of Norway in the men’s 5,000 and Mary Moraa of Kenya in the women’s 800 where American Athing Mu finished third.

The U.S. men won the 4×400 relay to give the Americans their 12th of the championships.

Ukraine finished with one that everyone will remember.

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