Cover photo by Scott Sidley/SS Athletics. View SS Athletics’s photo galleries.
Joel Baden has been making waves in the Australian athletics scene since he was a teenager. At the Victorian Championships over the weekend the 26-year-old leapt 2.33m in the high jump, moving him to third on the Australian all-time list behind joint national record holders Tim Forsyth and Brandon Starc.
The performance was a Victorian Championships meet record and a Lakeside Stadium track record, but more importantly, set a World Championships qualifying performance, virtually securing Baden’s spot on the Australian team for the 2023 World Championships in Budapest.
The height of his first competition performance of the year was a surprise to Baden himself, who was not expecting to hit such heights so early in the season.
“I knew I had the potential for something big, a couple of weeks prior in training I had some strong indications based off my 5 step approach,” he said.
“However, my full run-up wasn’t really consolidated in the lead-up to the State Champs so I wasn’t expecting something big so much as to just work gradually back into my full step approach. But given it was my first competition of the season, I was completely taken by surprise.”
Baden’s coach, Sandro Bisetto, has been working with him for several years, helping him to refine his technique and build his physical capabilities. Bisetto, who also coached joint Australian record holder and Olympic bronze medalist, Tim Forsyth, was thrilled with Baden’s performance at the Victorian Championships and sees it as a sign of even greater things to come.
Top performances by Australian high jumpers
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|Rank||Performance||Athlete||Location & Year|
|1||2.36m||Tim Forsyth||Melbourne 1997|
|1||2.36m||Brandon Starc||Eberstadt GER 2018|
|3||2.35m||Tim Forsyth||Canberra 1993|
|3||2.35m||Tim Forsyth||Athens GRE 1997|
|3||2.35m||Brandon Starc||Tokya JPN 2021|
|6||2.34m||Tim Forsyth||Oslo NOR 1992|
|6||2.34m||Tim Forsyth||London GBR 1992|
|6||2.34m||Tim Forsyth||Barcelona ESP 1992|
|9||2.33m||Tim Forsyth||Adelaide 1992|
|9||2.33m||Tim Forsyth||Sydney 1994|
|9||2.33m||Tim Forsyth||Eberstadt GER 1994|
|9||2.33m||Brandon Starc||Birmingham GBR 2018|
|9||2.33m||Brandon Starc||Brussels BEL 2018|
|9||2.33m||Brandon Starc||Florence ITA 2021|
|9||2.33m||Joel Baden||Melbourne 2023|
Baden competes for the Melbourne University Athletics Club and is currently studying IT. He grew up in Geelong and began his athletics career at Little Athletics. Between the ages of 16 and 18, his high jump best gradually rose from 2.12m to 2.20m. This steady improvement earned him a berth at the 2014 World Juniors, where he made the final. This experience on the international stage seemed to spur him on, as three months later, at a schoolboy meet in Melbourne, he cleared an extraordinary 2.29m, winning the competition by 34cm.
That clearance delivered Baden a qualifier for the 2015 World Championships, where, as a teenager, he performed well clearing 2.26m and was just one height short of a finals berth. He required 2.29m again to qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympics, a height he achieved in late June in Cairns. In Rio, he cleared 2.17m in the qualifying rounds.
Since then, Baden has competed two further World Championships, with a breakthrough performance of qualifying for the final and finishing tenth at last year’s edition in Eugene, Oregon. Qalifying again for the World Championships this year and the 2024 Olympics next year have been his main priorities, and Baden and Bisetto were entertaining some international competitions post Nationals to help secure a ranking points and gain some more experience at higher level competitions.
“This may still be on the cards regardless,” he said, “but having the auto qualifier under my belt takes a huge pressure off me and means I have more time to get myself into peak physical shape before the Worlds, which hopefully will translate to a top 5 position in the finals.”
The 2.33m that Baden jumped over the weekend would have been good enough for third at last year’s World Championships, so the prospect of a top 5 finish is entirely realistic, if the performance can be replicated on the global stage. Consistency will be the key, which wasn’t a hallmark of the performance at the Victorian championships: Baden missed his opening two attempts at his first height of 2.12m and had a misses at 2.21m, 2.24m, 2.29m (two), before clearing 2.23m on his second attempt.
Content with the performance of clearing 2.33m Baden retired from the competition. Content, for now, but with much high aspirations.