All eyes on women's high jump in Eugene

·3-min read

Major geopolitical issues have thrown the race for women's high jump gold at the world athletics championships wide open in an event with two genuine Australian title contenders.

In ordinary circumstances, Mariya Lasitskene would be the clear favourite to claim a fourth straight world title.

Lasitskene saluted again at last year's Tokyo Olympics - albeit while competing officially under the flag of the Russian Olympic Committee rather than Russia, as the country was officially suspended for systemic doping.

She won't be in Eugene at all for the world championships beginning on Friday (early Saturday AEST), this time due to a blanket ban imposed on Russian and Belarusian athletes due to the ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

As such, the title of pre-event standout goes to 2022 world leader Yaroslava Mahuchikh, currently a refugee from her native Ukraine who has been forced to relocate to Germany.

Just like in March when she overcame major logistical issues just to make it to Serbia before winning gold at the world indoors, Mahuchikh will also be the sentimental favourite in Eugene.

Standing in her way will be Australians Eleanor Patterson and Nicola Olyslagers, who have not squared off since last year's Olympic final when the latter won silver competing under her maiden name of McDermott.

Olyslagers should again be right in the mix in Eugene, but it is Patterson who brings even better 2022 form into the championships.

She joined Olyslagers in the exclusive two-metre club with her silver-medal effort at the world indoors and also claimed the win at the Stockholm Diamond League on June 30 against a crack field including Mahuchikh and fellow Ukrainian star Iryna Gerashchenko.

"To finally come away with a two-metre jump at a major comp was a huge boost," said Patterson, who first burst to prominence when she won Commonwealth gold as an 18-year-old in Glasgow in 2014.

"I know what I'm capable of and knew it was only a matter of time before these types of jumps came out but it was extra special to do it on the big stage.

"I've always had that belief inside myself."

Patterson acknowledged it was special to have two Australians challenging for medals in the same event, while keeping the focus more on what she hoped to achieve in Eugene.

"I'm just doing my thing and keeping it simple," the 26-year-old told AAP.

"It's high jump - there's a mat, there's a bar, there's a track, so it's about breaking that down.

"There is a benefit to having Nicola there too because we push each other, but you could say the same for any of the other athletes."

While expressing solidarity with the Ukrainian athletes last month, Lasitskene lambasted International Olympic Committe president Thomas Bach and other sporting leaders.

In an open letter, she said the blanket ban did not stop the war "but on the contrary, it gave birth to a new one, around and inside the sports, which is impossible to contain".

Patterson was more concerned with the bigger picture involving the deadly conflict in Ukraine.

"It is sad when any athlete misses out on the chance to compete," she said.

"But at the end of the day I'm seeing the Ukrainians and hearing their stories of how much concern they have for the events back home and how they are unable to go home.

"It's a matter of us checking in with the Ukrainian athletes to see how they and their families are doing."

The qualifying round of the women's high jump is on Saturday.

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