Soaring McDermott ousted in Zurich final
Nicola McDermott has concluded her breakthrough season with another soaring high jump performance which saw her almost set another Australian record in the Diamond League final.
Yet the NSW star again ultimately had to give best to her Tokyo conqueror Mariya Lasitskene as she finished third in a thrilling three-way competition in Zurich on Wednesday.
McDermott, who'd become the first Aussie woman to break the two metres barrier earlier in 2021 before going on to take Olympic silver, came perilously close to clearing 2.05 metres at her last attempt, which would have been a 3cm advance on the national mark she set in Tokyo a month ago.
After she'd just brushed off the bar, though, she had to settle for third in the season finale behind Russian Lasitskene and Ukrainian Yaroslava Mahuchikh.
The trio who'd battled for the Olympic crown put on another magnificent demonstration of jumping for the crowd gathered in the glorious setting of Zurich's Sechselautenplatz square in a novel prelude to Thursday's main action in the Letzigrund Stadium.
Against the backdrop of the Swiss city's Opera House, 24-year-old McDermott continued her fine form following her recent victory over Lasitskene in Paris, this time producing six straight clearances and leading the competition alongside Tokyo bronze winner Mahuchikh after going over 2.01m.
Scribbling down marks for her performances as usual after each jump, McDermott could have given herself 10 out of 10 and looked tantalisingly on course for an eighth win of the season as Lasitskene struggled before clearing 1.96m at the last attempt.
But McDermott suffered her first failure as she sought to record her fourth national record of the year at 2.03m while Mahuchikh cleared that height and then Lasitskene took control by recording the best jump anywhere in the world this year, a superb 2.05m effort.
Forced to raise the stakes in the bid for victory, McDermott also had the bar raised to 2.05m and was perilously close to achieving a new landmark at her final attempt.
Typically, though, the crowd favourite was still all smiles as she soaked up the cheers as she must sense she can go higher next season.
McDermott's compatriot and fellow Olympic finalist Eleanor Patterson didn't have such a good night, finishing last of the six finalists with a meagre 1.87m clearance.
On a four-laned, banked 560-metre track which had been specially laid around the city centre square, Burundi's Francine Niyonsaba ended her trying season with a 5,000 metres victory.
The 2016 Olympic 800m silver medallist, who's banned from the two-lap event because of naturally high levels of testosterone, had to move up distances to the 5,000m at the Tokyo Games only to be disqualified for a lane infringement in her heat.
Yet she finished her season in style, beating Kenyan Olympic silver medallist Hellen Obiri for the third time since Tokyo in a time of 14 minutes 28.98 seconds.
The track also caused confusion in the men's 5,000m, as a large gantry placed 25 metres beyond the barely-noticeable finishing line, saw the leaders continuing to battle after the clock was stopped.
In a race paced by Australian Matt Ramsden, Ethiopia's 20-year-old Berihu Aregawi finished strongly to win in 12:58.65.
One of the season's most dominant athletes, American shot putter Ryan Crouser, duly added the Diamond League title to his Olympic crown with a 22.67 metre winner.
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