By Karen Price | Sept. 30, 2019, 4:23 p.m. (ET)

Vashti Cunningham competing in the women's high jump final at the IAAF World Athletics Championships Doha 2019 on Sept. 30, 2019 in Doha, Qatar. 

 

Olympic high jumper Vashti Cunningham’s night ended when she couldn’t clear 2.02 meters in the final of the IAAF World Championships in Doha, Qatar, but 2.00 meters was good enough to secure a bronze medal.

Cunningham was perfect jump after jump as the title fight unfolded between the 21-year-old from Las Vegas, Nevada, reigning world champion Mariya Lasitskene, an authorized neutral athlete, and Yaroslava Mahuchikh, of Ukraine. Cunningham cleared 2.00 meters to match her personal best, which she accomplished earlier this year at the Prefontaine Classic, but when it came time to try 2.02 meters, which she’s never cleared in her career, she came up short on her first try for her first failed attempt of the night. Cunningham wasn’t successful on her final two tries, either, but her efforts were enough to claim a nice piece of hardware.

"Oh man, today was a good competition," Cunningham said. "I’m just happy to come out and have a clean sheet all the way through until my last misses."

She said equaling her personal best is a big boost as she keeps working toward the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.

"I will be in Tokyo," Cunningham said. "I can't wait."

This is Cunningham's first outdoor world championships medal, and just the fourth time that an American woman has medaled in the high jump at outdoor worlds. The last U.S. medalist in the event at the world championships was Brigetta Barrett, who won the silver medal in 2013. Cunningham won the indoor gold medal in 2016 and silver medal in 2018.

"I have two indoor world medals, but it means a lot to me to come outdoors and get my first outdoor medal," Cunningham said, "and to just come to a place like this and to prove that I’m one of the best."

Cunningham was 13th at the Olympic Games Rio 2016 and 10th at the 2017 world championships. When she made the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team, Cunningham became the youngest U.S. track and field athlete to qualify for the team since 1980.

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"I am so excited to get through the season healthy," Cunningham said. "The last few seasons I’ve had some ankle injuries and I had surgery last year, so to finish this season off with a medal and with no injury, I’m just so happy."

The battle continued between Lasitskene and Mahuchikh, with Mahuchikh setting a new under-20 world record when she cleared 2.04 meters on her third try but Lasitskene became the first three-time women’s high jump world champion as she cleared 2.04 on her first.

Earlier this year Cunningham, whose father and coach is former NFL great Randall Cunningham, swept both the indoor and outdoor U.S. high jump titles for the second year in a row.

Randall was in the stands, and Vashti would give him a thumbs-up sign.

"I’ve always been coached by my dad, so we have more than just a father-daughter relationship – almost like friends," Vashti said. "There are some times when I do cross the line and have to remember he’s my dad. We travel so much together. It’s easy for me to look at him and take guidance from him because he’s been at this level before. He’s really had the team depending on him."

Karen Price is a reporter from Pittsburgh who has covered Olympic and Paralympic sports for various publications. She is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.