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Nicola Olyslagers leaps to high jump glory at world indoor athletics championships

Nicola Olyslagers has soared to global glory with a last-gasp leap to win high jump gold at the world indoor athletics championships in Glasgow.

The main hope in Australia’s small team in Scotland, Olympic silver medallist Olyslagers once more rose to the big occasion on Friday night (Saturday AEDT) in her first indoor competition.

Olyslagers, who rates her performances by scribbling in her “little book of gold” between jumps, gave herself “10 out of 10” as she clinched her first global crown after finishing second at the Tokyo Games in 2021 and third at last year’s world championships in Budapest.

The Australian athlete earned her win in the most dramatic fashion, making a final-attempt clearance at 1.99m to turn what looked set to be another silver into gold.

With her main rival, Ukraine’s defending champion Yaroslava Mahuchikh having suffered one less failure and already over the same 1.97m height as her, Olyslagers knew it was a do-or-die leap for gold.

“The first two attempts at 1.99 were just off. I thought, ‘Wait a minute, I jumped this two weeks ago at the Maurie Plant meet on a cold night outdoors with a headwind. I know I’ve got this inside of me’,” Olyslagers said.

“I had a decision to make – was I going to listen to these doubts, or do what I needed to do?

“I journalled that ‘perfect love casts out fear’ … next thing I knew, I was running and it was rhythmic, and it was a 10 out of 10 jump. The gold medal is just the icing on the cake.”

With a joyous smile across her face even before she made the jump while egged on by the packed Emirates Arena crowd, Olyslagers soared over, which pressurised Mahuchikh into a third failure at 1.99m.

The competition won, Olyslagers had three cracks at 2.02m to no avail, but the 27-year-old could celebrate becoming the eighth Australian to win gold in the indoor championships’ 39-year history – and the first since Sally Pearson in the 60m hurdles in 2012.

“I’m feeling really thankful. I went into the competition willing to challenge myself knowing I hadn’t competed indoors before, and I actually wasn’t aiming for the medals,” Olyslagers said.

Having equalled the Oceania record of 2.03m in her season-opener outdoors in January, Olyslagers may now have stamped herself as an early favourite for Olympic gold in Paris ahead of 22-year-old outdoor champ Mahuchikh.

A duel between Olyslagers and her world-class domestic rival Eleanor Patterson, who took silver ahead of her in Budapest, never materialised.

An out-of-form Patterson withdrew earlier in the week to concentrate on her Olympic preparations.

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The other spectacular duel for gold on the opening night ended with the men’s 60m title going to former champion Christian Coleman ahead of fellow US sprinter Noah Lyles.

Coleman exploded from the blocks to edge Lyles by 0.03 seconds, winning in a world-leading 6.41.

US shot put great Ryan Crouser heaved a championship record 22.77m ahead of New Zealander Tom Walsh (22.07), while Belgium’s Noor Vidts successfully defended her 2022 pentathlon crown.

Australian middle distance star Catriona Bisset had earlier battled her way into the 800m semi-finals on her 30th birthday, finishing second in her heat in 2 minutes 02.24 seconds.

It wasn’t easy for the Oceanian 800m record holder in her first indoor race of the season as she set the pace throughout, but found herself overhauled late on by the talented Swiss teenager Audrey Werro.

With only the first two guaranteed progression, Bisset, hoping to improve on her fifth place finish in the 2022 world indoors, then had to repel a late challenge for the critical spot from Finland’s Eveliina Maattanen before booking her place.

But Bisset’s training partner Linden Hall bowed out in the 1500m, finishing fourth in her heat (4:09.83).

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