The European Athletics Championships are huge moment in any athlete’s career, but for high jumper Yaroslava Mahuchikh, Roma 2024 takes on extra significance.

“Rome is a special place for me,” she said talking to European Athletics’ new podcast series Ignite. “My first Diamond League was in Rome in 2018. Second, the world record in high jump was set in Rome in 1987 (2.09m by Stefka Kostadinova of Bulgaria).

“So, it’s a really special place and this place has a lot of energy. Italian fans, Italian people (it will be) so loud, so crazy. So, I am looking forward to this competition.” (tickets on sale here).

Six years ago, she was an inexperienced, but proven talent who had already won the 2017 world U18 gold in Nairobi, Kenya. But as current world champion and also defending European champion, there is now a heavy expectation on her 22-year-old shoulders.

But, with her coach’s words echoing in her ears, she is determined to savour the occasion. “I am a champion and I will go to protect my title in Rome,” she says. “My coach always says that every competition it should be like a celebration, like a holiday for you. People come to watch you, other people support you, you should enjoy (it). It’s like a party for track and field!”

As with any Ukrainian competitor, the backdrop of war in her home country remains an ever present challenge.

“In this difficult time for me, the high jump helps me focus (on) only track and field inside the stadium and forget anything that is happening outside. I will enjoy the atmosphere. I think if I will enjoy the atmosphere I will jump high,” she says, giving the Roma every encouragement to lend their support.

And the prospect of competing in the Stadio Olimpico lights a spark in the Ukrainian. “The stadium itself, it’s one of the great, great stadiums of the world. You walk in, you walk past all the statues, all the historic stuff. I mean, it’s a great place to have the event, isn’t it?” she says. 

The women’s high jump final takes place on Sunday 9 June.

Credit photo: Colombo\FIDAL