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    Beitia setting the standard again

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    After ending the last indoor season as Europe’s No 1 high jumper, Ruth Beitia is back where she left off and the message to the rest is clear: Catch me if you can.

    Around this time of year, a familiar story is normally written which talks about Beitia, her age and her continual brilliance. Simply, because she keeps defying it.

    This time it arrives with her turning 38 in April and on the back of arguably the most extraordinary year in her life as she won the Olympic and European titles and was named as the Female European Athlete of the Year at the Golden Track awards in October.

    At the weekend in Santander, the Spanish star began her competitive season in fine fashion with a clearance of 1.95m to soar to the top of the world rankings, three centimetres clear of Ukraine’s Yuliia Levchenko and five ahead of Greece’s Tatiana Gousin.

    She missed out three times at 1.97m but these are early days and now the standard has been set for the rest in a winter where in Belgrade, Beitia will surely chase her sixth medal at the European Athletics Indoor Championships.

    After silver in Madrid in 2005 and then bronze in Birmingham in 2007, successive silvers followed in Turin (2009) and Paris (2011) before finally in Gothenburg in 2013, Beitia won the title with 1.99m.

    And finishing in fifth in Prague two years later only fuelled her with greater determination as last year showed.

    Beitia ended the 2016 indoor season with a European lead of 1.98m, her 35+ all-time best, and a silver medal from the World Championships in Portland.

    She will now look to build on this 1.95m in Santander in Cottbus next Wednesday when she will face leading German Marie-Laurence Jungfleisch and Michaela Hruba, the Czech Republic’s World Under-20 champion Michaela Hruba.