27 SEP 2000 General News

Pedroso inherits Carl Lewis mantle

Pedroso inherits Carl Lewis mantle
Reuters

28 September 2000 - Cuba's Ivan Pedroso ended the United States' jealous rule over the Olympic long jump title on Thursday with an overdue triumph in front of the great Carl Lewis himself.

Lewis, who had won the last four titles, watched from the stands as the man from Cuba produced a final jump of 8.55 metres to beat Australia's Jai Taurima into second place.

The mighty Cuban survived a scare, fouling three times to trail Jaurima by eight centimetres with one try remaining.

Jaurima, who added 14 centimetres to his personal best by leaping 8.49 metres on his penultimate jump, won silver ahead of Ukraine's Roman Schurenko, a distant third with a best mark of 8.31 metres.

Pedroso, who last year became the first man to win three world championship crowns for the event but had yet to taste Olympic glory, burst into tears on winning the event and fell into the arms of fellow Cuban Luis Meliz, who finished seventh.

"I had been dreaming of that gold medal," Pedroso said. "I wanted it badly."

Pedroso, sporting a goatee beard, started the competition in worrying fashion, fouling his first jump on a dry but slightly windy night.

The Cuban made amends by jumping 8.34 metres on his second round to share the lead with Taurima. His third jump was invalid but his fourth of 8.41 metres propelled him into the lead.

Jaurima, boosted by deafening cheers from the capacity crowd of over 110,000 packing Stadium Australia, struck back with his best jump of the night to move back in front, until Pedroso set off for his fateful last jump.

"I was more worried about fouling than about anything else," Pedroso said. "When I'm competing it's not over until the very last jump."

The local favourite had one jump left but managed only 8.28 metres to settle for second place.

A world record is now the only feat missing in Pedroso's impressive resume but he almost had one.

Many thought winning would be merely a formality for Pedroso but Jaurima had other ideas. "I was red hot," he said. "It was amazing, with all those people screaming my name. I'll never forget it."

The 28-year-old Australian with long, dark hair and a Superman tatoo on the left shoulder said he never thought he had it made.

"I knew he was going to get me because he's such a seasoned campaigner and he's done it to so many people over the years," Jaurima said. "He's an absolute champion. If somebody deserves this, then it's him."

Asked what the Superman tattoo was for, Jaurima said: "It's to help me fly."

And did it work?

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