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News07 Mar 2004

Lebedeva does the double


Tatyana Lebedeva (RUS) wins the Long Jump final in Budapest (© Getty Images)

Over more than a century of Olympic and World championships athletics, there have been many great field event finals, with many more tremendous performances.

Even in the recent history of the sport, the 1968 Olympic Triple Jump final is recalled, in which the lead, and World record, changed hands more than once before Viktor Sanyeev claimed it as his own. The 1991 IAAF World Championship Long Jump showdown between Mike Powell and Carl Lewis is remembered as a tremendous contest, the 1995 Triple Jump final in Gothenburg, where Jonathan Edwards twice broke the World record.

But never before has one athlete managed to set three World records in one competition. Nor has one jumper ever managed to win both the long and triple at a single World Championships, either.

Until, that is, today when Tatyana Lebedeva added the women’s Long Jump to the Triple Jump she had claimed with three World record marks at these 10th IAAF World Indoor Championships here in Budapest on Saturday.

“A dream has come true,” said Lebedeva.

Lebedeva’s weekend’s work was worth a total of $130,000 in prize money and World record bonuses from the IAAF. But now she wants gold - and two lots of it in Athens at this summer’s Olympics.

“I think can try to win both events in Athens,” Lebedeva said, after taking the long jump with 6.98 metres, from her Russian team mate, Tatyana Kotova. “It should be easier in the Olympics. I will get more rest.”

Lebedeva had had a frantic Saturday, needing to qualify for the long jump in the morning before competing in her speciality, the triple jump, in the evening.

“I was afraid of how I might jump today,” she said after the long jump. “I didn’t expect that the triple jump would have affected me so much, but this morning, my whole body ached.

“I felt empty after those World records, physically and mentally.

“My best chance was in the first few jumps.” And so it proved. As she had done on Saturday, Lebedeva dominated her opposition from Round One, where she led with 6.89m, and her second-round 6.98 was only threatened when Kotova cleared 6.93 in the penultimate round, to snatch the silver by one centimetre from Sweden’s Carolina Kluft.

Lebedeva’s extraordinary feat of taking two titles in the action-packed weekend was all the more extraordinary simply because of the tremendous highs she had managed in Saturday’s Triple Jump final.

The basic facts of her performance bear repeating: in the first round, with the lead held at 14.62 metres by Francoise Mbango Etone (CMR), the 27-year-old Lebedeva tore down the runway in her usual, pacy manner, and virtually threw herself off the board and out to 15.16 metres, equalling the six-year-old world best of Britain’s Ashia Hansen.

Less than half an hour later, Lebedeva lined up for her second attempt. The capacity 12,000 crowd waited attentively and clapped rhythmically as she set off. This time, the mark in the sand was measured at 15.25 metres, the World record outright, and 50,000 causes for celebration, in the IAAF’s special dollar bonus for such feats.

Perhaps even Lebedeva was feeling the strain by this stage, though, and she passed the next round, prompting some to assume that she would be satisfied with that.

But far from it: after a 15.15-metre effort in the fourth round, the Russian saved her best for last, with 15.36 metres.

For a woman who missed the entire 2002 season when pregnant with her daughter, Anastasiya, this adds further to her already stellar career, which includes the outdoor world title in 2001 and then again in Paris last year.

“I am really happy,” said Lebedeva.

“I am preparing for the Olympics now, and thought 15.20 was not too much. But now I will see what happens in Athens.”

Lebedeva did not feel she had been able to warm-up as well as she would have liked, but on what is proving to be a very fast horizontal jumps runway, she was able to channel her speed and agility over the three phases of the jump to produce the finest series in the relatively brief history of the women’s event.

“It just seemed to get better and better,” she said. “The crowd powered me to this result.”