Portugal's Olympic triple jump champion Pedro Pichardo on his way to gold in Tokyo (© Getty Images)
With two-time champion Christian Taylor unable to defend his title due to injury, Portugal’s Pedro Pichardo took full advantage to stamp himself as the world’s best male triple jumper.
Pichardo set the tone with an opening jump of 17.61m and improved to a national record 17.98m on his third attempt to secure his first global gold medal in commanding fashion on Thursday (5) at the Tokyo Olympic Games.
China’s Zhu Yaming surprised the other leading contenders to take the silver with a best effort of 17.57m. Hugues Fabrice Zango jumped 17.47m to earn bronze, claiming the first ever Olympic medal for Burkina Faso.
The USA’s Will Claye, who had won the silver behind Taylor at the past two Olympics, surprisingly finished out of the medals this time. Claye’s best jump of 17.44m was only good enough for fourth place.
For the 28-year-old Pichardo, the victory represented his first major global title. He won two world silver medals competing for Cuba and finished fourth representing Portugal at the 2019 World Championships.
"It was always one of my dreams to win the Olympic gold,” Pichardo said. “This is what I have been doing since I was six years old. I feel a huge sense of happiness and I still have plenty of dreams ahead of me.”
Pichardo has been the in-form jumper this season, taking the European indoor title in March and leaping 17.92m in July, which stood as the world’s best jump this year until Thursday.
Pichardo dominated the final from the outset. His opening 17.61m jump would have been good enough to secure the gold. He also jumped 17.61m in the second round before soaring to 17.98m on his third attempt.
Pichardo fouled on his fourth jump and passed on his fifth. With the gold already in hand, he took to the runway for a sixth attempt but ran through the jump.
The surprise performer of the day was Zhu, the 27-year-old two-time Asian champion whose 17.57m jump in the fifth round took him past Zango and held up for the silver medal. It was China’s second consecutive Olympic medal in the event after Dong Bin won bronze in Rio in 2016.
"Today I reached my personal best twice and I was very satisfied,” Zhu said. “It was a good competition given that I did not have the chance to attend many competitions beforehand, so I'm very glad to have this medal.”
Zango, the world indoor record-holder, couldn’t improve on his 17.47m from the third round. Still, his bronze assured that Burkina Faso became the 100th country to win an Olympic medal in athletics.
"It's not the medal I wanted but it's good for Burkina Faso and it's historic,” Zango said. “Burkina Faso is really happy. Everybody is happy. I think they will throw a great party when I go back."
For Claye, Tokyo had represented his chance to finally win Olympic gold after those back-to-back silver medals in London and Rio.
Taylor was unable to compete for a third straight title after rupturing his achilles in May. That left US hopes to the 30-year-old Claye, who is third on the all-time list with 18.14m.
But Claye came up short in his bid for a first global championship gold, and couldn’t add to his medal tally either. He jumped 17.44m in the third round to move temporarily into second place but eventually slipped back down to fourth. On his sixth and final attempt, Claye jumped 17.36m.
Among other finalists, Algeria’s Yasser Mohamed Triki jumped a national record 17.43m to finish fifth.
Steve Wilson for World Athletics
|MEN'S TRIPLE JUMP MEDALLISTS|
|🥇||Pedro Pichardo 🇵🇹 POR||17.98m NR|
|🥈||Zhu Yaming 🇨🇳 CHN||17.57m PB|
|🥉||Hugues Fabrice Zango 🇧🇫 BUR||17.47m|