After three years in which the 18-meter mark has come under threat, 2013 has been a relatively quieter year in the men’s Triple Jump.
All of which means the result is wonderfully hard to predict in Moscow, with any of half a dozen men appearing capable of taking the gold medal; the result, as it should, coming down to who responds best to the demands of the competition on the day.
Only two men have ever gone beyond 18.00m in legal conditions. Jonathan Edwards did so with his World record in Gothenburg in 1995 when he recorded 18.29m.
USA’s Kenny Harrison is the only other man to do so with the 18.09m he jumped in Atlanta the following year when he had the stimulus both of a home Olympics and Edwards to spur him on.
The magic mark was again approached in 2010 when the explosive French jumper Teddy Tamgho reached 17.98m in New York. Phillips Idowu produced a 17.81m winning jump at the Barcelona 2010 European championships.
The following year, Christian Taylor jumped virtually the same distance as Tamgho – 17.96m in his case – in taking the gold medal at the World Championships in Daegu. Again, he needed most of it as Idowu was at 17.77m for second place.
Taylor won again at the London 2012 Olympics, this time requiring ‘only’ 17.81m for the gold medal. This was also the world lead, the shortest world lead of the past three years.
Taylor will be attempting to make it three global titles on the trot when he competes in Moscow, a feat only ever achieved by Viktor Saneyev, who won three Olympic titles in a row in Mexico City 1968, Munich 1972 and Montreal 1976, before the time of World championships.
Of course, the two-year cycle now enables the feat to be achieved in three consecutive years, but it is nonetheless one that defied Edwards, Harrison and Christian Olsson.
Taylor could just about pull it off, too. His two closest rivals are the precocious young Cuban Pedro Pichardo and Tamgho.
Pichardo tops the world list with 17.69m, three centimetres better than Taylor’s season’s best, while Tamgho has a season’s best of 17.47m (and a wind-assisted 17.49m).
Taylor has been the most successful on the IAAF Diamond League circuit, with wins in Doha, Rome, Birmingham and Monaco. He has lost twice, once in New York where Benjamin Compaore won a weather-blighted competition with 16.45m, and once in Lausanne where he finished behind Pichardo and Tamgho.
Pichardo, who celebrated his 20th birthday on 30 June, is bidding to make the transition from World junior to World senior champion in just one year, having won the junior title in Barcelona last season. He builds on a long tradition of Cuban success in the Triple Jump and will have plenty of support both from experienced teammates and off the field in Moscow.
Pichardo, who boasts a 2-1 record over Taylor this season, would also become the youngest-ever champion or medallist in the event should he feature in the top three.
Tamgho is making a strong comeback this season after his Olympic hopes were dashed by successively a six-month disciplinary suspension from his own federation and then an ankle injury. While not yet back to the distances of 2010 – when he also jumped a World indoor record of 17.90m to become World indoor champion, a record he improved to 17.91m then 17.92m the following year – he is showing the consistency to be among the medallists.
Others who are in contention include Cuba’s Ernesto Reve with 17.46m this year, and France’s No.2 man Yoann Rapinier with 17.45m, while the consistent Italian Daniele Greco and Russia’s Aleksey Fedorov cannot be overlooked.
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Len Johnson for the IAAF