Ivana Vuleta celebrates at the World Athletics Indoor Championships Belgrade 22 (© Getty Images)
Home long jumper Ivana Vuleta, who under her maiden name of Spanovic electrified a Belgrade crowd five years ago when she cleared 7.24m to win the European indoor title, rose to the home challenge once again. This time she delivered a global indoor gold with a fifth-round best of 7.06m – comfortably the best distance seen this season – at the World Athletics Indoor Championships Belgrade 22.
The 31-year-old had staked her claim with a second-round effort of 6.89m, but the field gradually crept closer to her before she produced her second, decisive and hugely popular flourish.
Silver went to Ese Brume of Nigeria thanks to her third-round effort of 6.85m, one of the warning shots that prompted Vuleta to up her game still further.
And while Britain’s Lorraine Ugen, who took silver behind Spanovic in 2017 with a British record of 6.97m, only managed two scoring efforts, her 6.82m and 6.78m was enough to earn her bronze ahead of Tiffany Flynn of the United States, who had a best of 6.78m.
Once Brume had landed at 6.67m with her final jump, the stadium erupted with noise and Vuleta was able to set off for a warmly-acclaimed lap of honour wrapped in the national flag.
After a first round in which only five of the 15 finalists managed to record a distance, Vuleta achieved the result she and the bulk of the spectators desired as she moved into the lead with an effort of 6.89m – a centimetre farther than her previous 2022 best, which put her second on the list behind the 6.96m achieved by Germany’s Olympic and world champion Malaika Mihambo, absent from Belgrade.
Before the championships, Vuleta rued the absence of Malaika from Belgrade – but she could only beat those around her. And would Mailaka have beaten 7.06m?
Ukraine’s world silver medallist Maryna Bekh-Romanchuk, who had won an emotional silver earlier in the day in her second best event of the triple jump, reached sixth place with her fourth-round jump of 6.73m and appeared to have gone well beyond that with her next effort, only to see it rule a foul.
The frustration showed as her final big effort also lit up red.
In the end, she finished sixth in her top event and second in her back-up – a glorious day’s work in the traumatic circumstances.
Sweden Khaddi Sagnia, who has been a potent force on the circuit this year, was unable to earn a second sequence of three jumps after failing to make the top eight with her first three efforts, having to settle for 12th place on 6.42m.
Mike Rowbottom for World Athletics
|WOMEN'S LONG JUMP MEDALLISTS|
|🥇||Ivana Vuleta 🇷🇸 SRB||7.06m WL|
|🥈||Ese Brume 🇳🇬 NGR||6.85m SB|
|🥉||Lorraine Ugen 🇬🇧 GBR||6.82m SB|