Christian Taylor flying towards the U.S. title in Eugene (Getty Images) © Copyright
After failing to register a mark in the 2004 Olympic final, then missing out on gold by just five centimetres in Beijing four years ago, an Olympic title in London – in a stadium just a few miles away from Hackney, where he was born and raised – would have been a fitting end to his Olympic story.
But instead the 33-year-old has been struck by an untimely injury – one which forced him to pull out of the Eugene Diamond League after three rounds, and led to his DNS at the London Diamond League.
Since then there have been contradictory reports on the fitness of the 2008 World Indoor Champion and no one but the man himself appears to be truly aware of his current status.
But given his consistency at major championships in recent years – and the fact he won silver at last year’s World Championships while not at full fitness – provided he makes it to the runway, Idowu can never be discounted.
The favourite, though, has to be World Champion Christian Taylor. With victories at the US Championships and the London Grand Prix, the American has enjoyed a similar build-up to the one that led to his victory in Daegu last year. Having this year produced four of his six best ever jumps, Taylor has even suggested he may get close to Jonathan Edwards’ World record of 18.29m.
But if one man knows how to beat Taylor, it is arch-rival and former college team-mate Will Claye. The 21-year-old defeated Taylor to take World indoor gold with a leap of 17.70m – the best mark in the world this year, indoors or out. Claye’s ambition is to win gold in both the long jump and triple jump – a double that has only once before been achieved at the Olympics, by Meyer Prinstein at the 1904 Games.
Despite being 14 years older than Claye, Italy’s Fabrizio Donato is still jumping well. Although the majority of his best jumps have been achieved indoors, Donato recently won the European title with 17.63m – a mark that could see him get among the medals in London. But despite this being his fourth Olympic appearance, he has never before made the final.
Team-mate Daniele Greco is slightly less consistent, but is capable of causing an upset. Ranked sixth in the world with his 17.47m PB, the 23-year-old sailed out to a windy 17.67m to defeat Donato at the Italian Championships.
Cuba has a rich tradition in this event, and has opted for experience over youth in their team for London. Instead of selecting 17.49m man Osviel Hernandez or national champion Ernesto Reve, they have instead chosen Alexis Copello, David Girat and Yoandris Betanzos, who between them have won a total of eight World Championship medals, indoors and out.
Since taking bronze at the World Indoor Championships, Russia’s Lyukman Adams has won all four of his outdoor competitions this summer, led by his season opener in Sochi, where he set a PB of 17.53m. The 24-year-old could well be surprise package of the competition.
The past two Olympic Champions – Nelson Evora and Christian Olsson – will miss London, but defending bronze medallist Leevan Sands of the Bahamas will doubtless once again be in contention. Other likely finalists include China’s Dong Bin, Commonwealth Champion Tosin Oke and European Under-23 Champion Sheryf El-Sheryf.
Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF
2006 Evergreen Mutola