Donald Thomas competes in the men’s high jump qualification at the World Athletics Championships at the Bird's Nest stadium in Beijing. (AP)
By BRENT STUBBS
Senior Sports Reporter
WITH the men’s high jump not one of the disciplines for the 2015 IAAF Diamond League, Donald Thomas is taking advantage of competing in whatever meets he can get in around the European circuit.
On Tuesday at the 51st edizione Palio Citt dell Quercia in Rovereto, Italy, Thomas got a chance to compete against a couple of competitors he faced at the 15th IAAF World Championships in Beijing, China. Incidentally, the Rovereto meet record is still held by retired Bahamian national record holder Troy Kemp at 2.35 metres or 7-feet, 8 1/2-inches that he set on September 5, 1991.
Thomas, competing in his second meet since the trip to Beijing where he got sixth place in the final with 2.29m (7-6), soared 2.25 metres or 7-feet, 4 1/2 inches to take second place behind Ukraine’s Bohdan Bondarenko, who won with 2.31m (7-7). Bondarenko, the 2013 world champion, ended up in a two-way tie with China’s Guowei Zhang for the silver at the Worlds with 2.33m (7-7 3/4).
Dmytro Yakovenko, also from Ukraine and a competitor in the qualifying round in Beijing, completed the top three with a leap of 2.17m (7-1 1/2).
For Thomas, it was good to get in some stiff competition in the post-World Championship. This was his second meet, the first coming at the Weltklasse Zurich Diamond League Meet in Zurich, Switzerland on September 3 where he was seventh with 2.19m (7-2 1/4) with Mutz Essa Barshim of Qatar taking the title with 2.32m (7-7 1/4).
“I jumped 2.25 and I passed at 2.28m (7-5 3/4) and when we got to 2.31, he cleared it on his first attempt and I failed my attempts, so it was close,” said Thomas in an interview with The Tribune from Italy. “The gap is closing. I am catching up with the top guys.”
Thomas, 31, was referring to the fact that he has not had a major victory this year at any of the international meets, but he’s been right in the thick of things.
“It’s always just one height that has been separating me and the other guys,” Thomas said. “I’ve already identified some of the things that me and my coach have to do in practice, in particular my right arm going into motion, so once I get that corrected, I should be able to get a few more inches.”
During the off-season, Thomas intends to work on those little mechanics with his new coach from Cuba, who coached world record holder Javier Sotomayor. Thomas has been working with the new coach since November.
“That’s one of the major issues he’s going to address during the offseason,” said Thomas, who will either go to Cuba to train or bring the coach to Auburn, Alabama, where he resides.
From Italy, Thomas is expected to fly to Warsaw, Poland next week where he will compete in his next meet. He’s just waiting on the word from his manager as to the exact venue and date.
Looking back at his sixth place finish in Beijing, Thomas said he was not all that pleased because he felt he had a lot more to offer and should have been on the podium as a medallist.
“In qualification, I suffered a muscle spasm. Not making any excuses, but I felt it took away a lot from my performance in the final,” he said. “Then it rained a few hours before the final and I didn’t want to get injured. But we all had to compete in the same condition and I just wasn’t good enough to do it that day.”
Once he’s done with Poland, Thomas said he will get ready for the offseason and the road to Rio for the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil. Thomas, the 2007 world champion in Osaka, Japan, is looking for his third appearance at the Olympics and his first crack at the final.
Hopefully, his new coaching arrangement will make the difference.