Caterine Ibarguen in the triple jump at the London 2012 Olympic Games (© Getty Images)
If medals were handed out based on dominance within an Olympic cycle, then the triple jump gold may as well be handed to Caterine Ibarguen as soon as she enters Rio’s Olympic Stadium.
After taking silver at the London 2012 Olympic Games, the Colombian went undefeated for 34 meetings, a streak that included two world titles and a South American record of 15.31m.
Aside from her consistency, the 32-year-old is also a fierce competitor, often ready to uncork a big jump if ever she loses her lead within a competition – which, admittedly, doesn’t often happen.
Nevertheless, despite her dominance over the past four years, Ibarguen heads to Rio with not one but two serious challengers.
Olympic champion Olga Rypakova ended Ibarguen’s winning streak earlier this year, leaping 14.61m to beat Ibarguen by five centimetres at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Birmingham.
After winning gold in London four years ago, Rypakova took a year out to give birth to her son, but the Kazakh athlete returned to form last year to take the bronze medal at the World Championships.
The 31-year-old’s 2016 campaign is not too dissimilar to her build-up to the 2012 Olympics, and if she can recapture her 15-metre form of 2010, that could be enough for gold.
Rojas can make history
The 15-metre club gained a new member this year in the form of Yulimar Rojas.
The 20-year-old Venezuelan took gold at the IAAF World Indoor Championships Portland 2016 and continued her stunning breakthrough during the outdoor season.
She put up a strong fight against Ibarguen at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Doha, jumping a wind-assisted 14.92m, and then became the youngest woman ever to jump beyond 15 metres when winning at the IAAF World Challenge meeting in Madrid with 15.02m.
The tall and rangy jumper has been inconsistent at times, leaping just 14.11m and 14.09m at the IAAF Diamond League meetings in Rabat and Rome respectively, but if she nails a good jump in Rio – and it only takes one jump – Rojas could become the first Venezuelan woman in any sport to win Olympic gold.
Greece’s Paraskevi Papahristou has also had some consistency issues this year, but she has got it right when it matters, taking bronze medals at the world indoor championships and the European Championships. She set a PB of 14.73m earlier this year, putting her third on the 2016 world list.
Patricia Mamona was a surprise winner of the European title last month, but if the Portuguese jumper can reproduce her national record 14.58m leap from Amsterdam, she may not be too far from the medals.
Commonwealth champion Kimberly Williams finished in the top six at five successive global championships between 2012 and 2015. With a season’s best of 14.56m – just six centimetres shy of her lifetime best – the Jamaican looks set to maintain her record.
Compatriot Shanieka Thomas could also be a factor, having jumped 14.57m earlier this year.
Keturah Orji broke the US record with 14.53m to win the NCAA title. No US woman has ever made it into the top eight in the triple jump at the Olympics, but 20-year-old Orji could end that drought.
The likes of 2011 world champion Olga Saladuka of Ukraine, Israel's world and European silver medallist Hanna Minenko and the Cuban duo of Liadagmis Povea and Liuba Zaldivar could also be factors in the final.
Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF