For five rounds of the men’s Triple Jump final, Teddy Tamgho had threatened the 18-metre mark.
Three times he appeared to land beyond a distance surpassed only by two men in history – World record-holder Jonathan Edwards with 18.29m at the Gothenburg 1995 World Championships and Kenny Harrison, who jumped 18.09m to win the gold medal at the Atlanta Olympic Games the following year.
But each jump was a foul – by a total of not much more than 10 centimetres, according to the video distance measurement system. Tamgho was two centimetres over the board on his second and third jumps and a whole six centimetres on his fifth.
Until late in the fourth round, Tamgho had a more pressing problem than his series of narrow fouls. Cuba’s Pedro Pablo Pichardo, last year’s World junior champion, led with his second round 17.68m
The Frenchman tied that in the fourth round with his only legal jump from rounds two to five, and took the lead on a superior second-best jump, his 17.65m in the opening round.
Neither could improve in the fifth round. Tamgho had his third foul and Pichardo produced a 17.52m, good but not even enough to change the count-back situation.
Now Tamgho stood on the runway for his sixth and final attempt, the second-last jump of the competition, only Pichardo to follow. Again he raced down the blue runway, again he flirted with the plasticine, but this time it was a legal jump.
A very big legal jump, as it turned out. Tamgho landed 18.04m away, neither a championships nor a World record, but making him just the third man to exceed the 18-metre mark.
Tamgho became the first French medallist in the event, and the first French World Championships gold medallist since the men’s 4x100m relay team in Helsinki in 2005 (Ladji Doucoure also won the 110m Hurdles at those championships a day earlier).
The 24-year-old Frenchman is making a habit of last-gasp gold medal victories over Cuban athletes. At the Doha 2010 World Indoor Championships, his 17.90m World indoor record in the last round snatched victory from Yoandri Betanzos. Now Pichardo was the victim.
Pichardo also lost his world lead, but the 20-year-old has plenty of time to acquire golden laurels of his own. As it was, he became the youngest World Championships medallist in the event, displacing Will Claye. He would have also displaced Christian Taylor as the youngest-ever champion but for Tamgho’s late heroics.
Pichardo was on from the start of the competition with 17.38m in the first round and 17.68m in the second. Only Tamgho with his opening jump of 17.65m matched him early.
By contrast, 2011 World champion and London 2012 Olympic champion Taylor started slowly. He appeared out of sorts and stiff-legged, feet of clay, perhaps. His opening 16.99m remained his best until the fifth round.
Claye, Daegu bronze and London silver medallist, had the feet of a jitterbug. He could not land them anywhere near the board, taking off from 23cm and 29cm behind it on his two worst efforts and giving up a total of over 1.20m over his six jumps.
His 17.52m fifth-round effort – this one a mere 10cm behind the board – gave him the bronze medal, his third minor medal in as many years.
Taylor finally started to find some rhythm late in the competition. He improved to 17.13m in the fifth round and 17.20m in the last. It was too little, too late, however and he finished fourth. Only the top four men went over 17 metres – the fewest in any World Championships final. Russia’s Aleksey Fedorov was fifth with 16.90m.
But Tamgho did go over 18 metres, and only two other men in history have been able to reach that distance. No-one else was going to touch him this day.
Len Johnson for the IAAF