Miltiadis Tentoglou in the long jump at the Tokyo Olympics (© Getty Images)
Miltiadis Tentoglou of Greece saved his best for last to claim the Olympic long jump title in a dramatic competition on Monday (2).
Sitting in fourth place as he lined up for his final jump, the European champion unleashed an 8.41m effort to equal early leader Juan Miguel Echevarria and take command of the competition with countback in his favour.
That put the pressure on the young Cuban, who had been nursing a sore hamstring throughout the competition. Echevarria’s pain, which became more readily apparent with each passing round, finally took its toll as he set off on his final approach. Never reaching full speed, he slowed to a jog and finally stopped before the take-off board where he dropped to his knees and pounded the ground twice before stepping off the runway.
“What an incredible competition, what an incredible jump, the last jump,” said Tentoglou, who at first seemed reluctant to accept that he had won. “I wasn't able to get it right at the start. But in the end I managed to pull something out to get the medal.”
It was a dramatic end to a competition that didn’t fully spring to life until the final round when it appeared that Echevarria, the world indoor champion, would finally secure his first global outdoor title.
His teammate Maykel Masso took the early lead with an 8.21m leap in the first round. Then Echevarria, who opened with an 8.09m jump, took command in the third round, sailing out to 8.41m. By then, both Cubans were nursing their right hamstrings, Echevarria favouring his after each jump and Masso hurting enough to pass on his third- and fourth-round attempts.
An 8.11m opening leap left Tentoglou sitting in third through the fourth round until JuVaughn Harrison, who finished seventh in last night’s high jump final, finally shook out the rust with an 8.15m jump to move into bronze position.
Tentoglou responded well, producing his own 8.15m leap in the same round to retake third, with countback in his favour.
Ailing, the Cuban pair could only watch as spectators from the sidelines as they passed on their fifth-round efforts.
Spaniard Eusebio Caceres made the first move of the final round, reaching 8.18m to take sole possession of bronze position. Harrison couldn't respond but Tentoglou did, producing what turned out to be the winning leap.
Before the jump, Tentoglou, who arrived in Tokyo as the world leader with 8.60m, told himself, “’Just do what you can do’. I always have something left, something in reserve.”
"It's not what I expected, but still it's a very welcome prize,” said Echevarria, who jumped 8.50m in the qualifying round. “It was a spectacular competition – I hope everyone enjoyed it."
Echevarria acknowledged that he was competing with heavy pain, but added, "I’m going to recover and see if I can still compete this year.”
Harrison finished fifth to end his busy week as the first man to contest the high jump and long jump finals at the same Olympics since 1948.
Yuki Hashioka, the world U20 champion who flew to an 8.36m PB in June, jumped 8.10m in the final round, his only leap beyond eight metres, to finish sixth, two centimetres better than Thobias Montler of Sweden.
World champion Tajay Gayle of Jamaica, who suffered a strain of his medial collateral ligament in the qualifying round, fought through the injury to qualify for the final, which coincided today with his 24th birthday. But he was in visible pain throughout, limping out of the pit after each of his jumps. After a pair of fouls, he did manage one measured leap, a 7.69m effort that left him in 11th place.
Bob Ramsak for World Athletics
|MEN'S LONG JUMP MEDALLISTS|
|🥇||Miltiadis Tentoglou 🇬🇷 GRE||8.41m (0.1m/s)|
|🥈||Juan Miguel Echevarria 🇨🇺 CUB||8.41m (0.2m/s)|
|🥉||Maykel Masso 🇨🇺 CUB||8.21m (0.4m/s)|