Derek Drouin has never seen a high jump competition quite like this before. No one has.
Drouin won the bronze medal Tuesday.
So did Robert Grabarz of Great Britain and so did Qatar’s Mutaz Essa Barshim.
Three bronze medalists, in addition to one gold, for Ivan Ukhov of Russia, and one silver for Erik Kynard of the United States.
“It’s going to be busy on the podium,” Grabarz cracked as the five medalists took their places at a table set up for a press conference.
The Olympics hasn’t had a three-way tie for a medal since 1968, when three women finished with the same time in the 500-metres speed-skating event at the Winter Games.
And five medalists in one event? That looks like a first.
Spare a thought for Canada’s Michael Mason. He and three other high jumpers cleared 2.29 metres, the same height as Drouin and the other bronze medalists. But they were shut out of the medals.
That’s right. Six men all cleared 2.29 metres. Three got medals, three didn’t.
Drouin, Barshim and Grabarz cleared 2.29 on their first attempts, while Mason and the others missed at least once before clearing it.
When all six failed to clear the next height, 2.33 metres, the medals were decided based on misses at the lower height.
Ukhov went on to clear 2.38 metres and Kynard 2.33.
“I don’t think I’ve seen that before,” said Mason, who appeared to clear 2.33, which would have given him bronze alone, only to watch the bar fall after he landed.
“It’s kind of bittersweet at this moment. That’s high jump for you.”
Drouin, 22, knew he was fortunate.
“I was expecting 2.33 [metres] today. I got lucky and 2.29 was enough,” he said.
None of the three would have won a medal in the 2004 or 2008 Summer Games, when it took at least 2.34 to finish top three.
The height is far off the Canadian record of 2.35 metres, set by Mark Boswell.
Both Canadian jumpers said the reason for the tight finish in London was the move by Olympic officials to increase the height of the bar by more than usual as the event progressed. It put the bar out of reach of most jumpers early on.
“When I saw the increments, I kind of predicted that that was going to happen,” said Drouin, who expected a five-way tie for third.
When event ended, four of the medalists went for a victory lap each carrying their nation’s flag.
Drouin didn’t have a Canadian flag. So he ran to the stands where his parents were sitting.
They gave him a flag that had been signed by dozens of well-wishers from the family’s hometown of Corunna, Ont., near Sarnia. Then he headed down the track.
Drouin is the first Canadian to win an Olympic medal in the high jump since Greg Joy in 1976.
“He’s obviously an incredible jumper. I feel like I’m in good company with him,” Drouin said.
“To be the first one to do since a long time before I was born, it feels pretty great.”
Joy watched the competition from the lobby of an office building in Ottawa.
“It was great,” he said. “About time.
“We’ve had some pretty darned good high jumpers for many years and haven’t managed to get a medal. It’s good to see someone finally snatch one.”
Drouin and the other four competitors will get their medals Wednesday, at the Olympic Stadium. And he is not complaining.
“As long as I get a medal, I’m okay with sharing it,” he said.
With files from David Ebner in Vancouver