Vashti Cunningham followed her breakout 2016 World Indoor high jump title with silver to open the biennial global championships in Birmingham, Great Britain, on Thursday.
Russian Maria Lasitskene took gold with a clearance of 1.96 meters (later clearing 2.01 and missing three tries at 2.07). Lasitskene is one of the world’s most dominant athletes, winning her last 38 finals dating to July 2016.
Cunningham, 20, cleared 1.93 meters to grab silver. She missed all three attempts at 1.96 despite clearing that height on her first attempt at her two previous meets this season.
The daughter of retired NFL quarterback Randall Cunningham was 13th at the Rio Olympics and 10th at last year’s world championships as a teenager. She is experienced yet also the youngest member of the 53-athlete U.S. roster in Birmingham.
Cunningham won the 2016 World Indoor title against a field that did not include Lasitskene but did include Spaniard Ruth Beitia, who went on to win the Rio Olympics and then retire last year.
In the men’s high jump Thursday, Russian Danil Lysenko upset Qatar’s Mutaz Barshim by clearing 2.36 meters for gold. Barshim had the world’s best clearances each of the last four years and relegated Lysenko to silver at the 2017 World Outdoor Championships.
American Erik Kynard, the 2012 Olympic silver medalist, took fourth.
Later Thursday, Ethiopian Genzebe Dibaba won her third straight world title in the 3000m. The indoor mile world-record holder went to the lead with 1000m to go and prevailed by .63 of a second in 8:45.05.
Ethiopian-born Dutchwoman Sifan Hassan held off Brit Laura Muir by one tenth for silver. The top American was Olympic 5000m finalist Shelby Houlihan in fifth.
World Indoors continues through Sunday on NBCSN, Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA and NBC Sports Gold, highlighted by new 60m sprint world-record holder Christian Coleman.
World Indoors marks the lone global meet of the year, since outdoor worlds are held in odd-numbered years, and the next Olympics are in 2020.
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