Sometimes, close counts. As Saturday's international Grand Prix track and field meet wound down on Randalls Island, Ukraine's Bohdan Bondarenko and Qatar's Mutaz Essa Barshim took their shots at a world-record 8 feet, 3/4-inch high jump.
Neither succeeded. But their duel thrilled a capacity Icahn Stadium crowd in excess of 4,000, both men providing the second-highest jumps in history at 7-11 1/4. And the highest ever on U.S. soil. Cuban Javiar Sotomayor's world mark of 8-3/4 was achieved in Salamanta, Spain, on July 27, 1993.
Bondarenko, after passing the previous height of 8-0, grazed the bar at 8-3/4 with his shoulder on both his first and second attempts. Barshim, after having gotten close once at 8-0, saved his final two tries for 8-3/4, coming close once, but not again.
That left Bondarenko, assured of the victory, with one more go at the record. With the crowd on its feet, once more generating rhythmic clapping, Bondarenko was betrayed by his steps and fatigue at the end of the long afternoon and merely ran under the bar.
"It was a good competition, good stadium, fantastic place for me," he said. It was Bondarenko's first U.S. competition, and he wore one blue and one yellow track shoe -- Ukraine's national colors -- but either misunderstood or didn't care to answer a question about what his performance might have meant to his war-torn countrymen.
"Many people say, 'World record, world record,'" said Bondarenko, 24, who won the 2013 world championships and entered the meet with a personal best of 7-103/4. "All day, I hear question, 'When world record?' This is very hard. We don't know when world record."
The 6-6 Bondarenko, only 176 pounds and shaped like a javelin, was pushed to the limit by the 6-2 Barshim, 22, the 2012 Olympic bronze medalist.
The electric competition was further enhanced by Bondarenko's Ukrainian compatriot, Andriy Protsenko, who cleared 7-81/2, his personal best, and stayed in the fight up to 7-101/2 throughout the windy day.
As the tension -- and the bar -- rose, all three men resorted to the strategy of trying to get an edge by passing heights, daring the opponents to miss first.
"Everybody's watching the high jump," Barshim said. "The high jump is a chess match, and everybody wants to win."
Around them, the usual track expectations and disappointments were unfolding. That included Olympics pole vault champion Jenn Suhr of upstate New York losing to Brazilian Fabiana Murer, 33, the 2011 world champ, 15-9 to 15-5.
Jamaica's Yohan Blake, silver medalist in both 2012 Olympic sprints to Usain Bolt, lost the men's 100 meters to a lesser countryman, Nesta Carter, 10.09 to 10.21. Kenya's 800 world record holder and London Olympics champion David Rudisha, in his first U.S. race, won that event in 1:44.63.
And 10-year-old Jonah Goravic of Rye set a world age-group record with a beyond-logic 5:01.55 mile.
Still, the high jumpers were the show.
"We are supermen," Barshim kidded.