x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

The last laugh goes to Ukhov

The Russian high jumper Ivan Ukhov strikes gold six months after being mocked on the internet.

Ivan Ukhov makes amends after he became a joke on the internet by clearing the bar at 2.32m to take gold at the European Indoor Athletics Championships.
Ivan Ukhov makes amends after he became a joke on the internet by clearing the bar at 2.32m to take gold at the European Indoor Athletics Championships.

The highway to Turin may as well be named Redemption Road after what was on view late on Saturday night. For one athlete - Dwain Chambers - it was about proving that he could win without steroids. For the other - Ivan Ukhov - it was to get the world to stop laughing at him.

Ukhov, a YouTube sensation all of last year, finally made the headlines for the right reasons with victory in the high jump. The Russian sprang to prominence when his drunken appearance at a meeting in Lausanne in September received more than a million hits on the internet. He was seen having difficulty removing his tracksuit and pushing aside a track official. He then ambled towards the bar, attempted a half-hearted take-off much too soon, fell under the bar and flopped on to the bed.

He later apologised and reimbursed the meeting organisers, blaming his drunken state on too much vodka and Red Bull after having a fight with his girlfriend. There were no such problems yesterday, however, Ukhov taking gold as the only man to clear 2.32m with his compatriot Aleksey Dmitrik and Kyriakos Loannou of Cyprus both awarded silver after clearing 2.29m. "I did everything to become the winner, to show I am a good athlete and improve my reputation after Lausanne," Ukhov said.

For the dope-tainted Chambers, the story is far more messier after having been punished for taking a banned steroid. But while he hasn't yet won anything this week, he seems to be in marvellous form. The British sprinter set a European 60m record when he won his semi-final in a time of 6.42sec. Chambers, who missed the Olympic Games despite having served a two-year drugs ban, improved the previous European best of 6.45sec set by France's Ronald Pognon in Karlsruhe in 2005.

He also clocked the third best time over the distance in history, behind America's Maurice Greene, the world record holder, who ran 6.39sec and Andre Cason, 6.41sec. This winter, he had already set a season-best mark of 6.51sec, equalling the time of America's Michael Rodgers and he will be the favourite in the final, due to be run last night. Chambers, who served a two-year ban for taking the "designer" steroid THG in 2003, came into the championships having made fresh allegations against fellow athletes and the authorities in his autobiography, Race Against Me.

Elsewhere, the Russians dominated. Yuliya Golubchikova won the pole vault on countback from Germany's Silke Spiegelburg after both women had cleared 4.75m. Germany's Anna Battke took bronze with 4.65m. Anna Alminova won the 1500m ahead of Spain's Natalia Rodriguez and Sonja Roman of Slovenia, while Antonina Krivoshapka triumphed in the 400m ahead of Ukraine's Nataliya Pyhyda. Russian Darya Safonova took bronze.

Estonia's Ksenija Balta prevented Russian domination by winning in the long jump with 6.87m. * With agencies