A spirited competition on the long jump runway produced several big surprises. Lyudmila Galkina of Russia triumphed over better known names to win with a leap of 7.05. Galkina, the world indoor champion in 1995, failed to make the final at both the 1995 Worlds and the 1996 Olympics, so a win here came as a big relief.
After the first round, Fiona May of Italy, the defending champion, led with a 6.91. Galkina leapt 6.89 on her first effort. Two-time champion, Jackie Joyner-Kersee sat in 3rd at 6.79. Greece’s Niki Xanthou gave notice that she would challenge when she fouled her first leap in 6.80 territory.
May fouled her next two attempts while Xanthou thrilled the audience with a 6.93 that vaulted her into the lead. In round four, Galkina came back with a 7.05 to grab the top spot. Xanthou responded well with an improvement to 6.94.
In the final round, Germany’s Heike Drechsler improved to 6.89, good for 4th. Xanthou fouled her last attempt, and Galkina passed. That left May as the final jumper. She nearly moved up to gold with an impressive leap that was safely farther than 7.00, but a narrow foul kept her to bronze.
Xanthou’s is the first silver medal ever won by Greece at the World Championships.
Chioma Ajunwa, the Olympic champion, attempted to compete but reinjured her left hamstring in an aborted effort of 5.21. Marion Jones, the 100m gold medallist, experienced severe problems with her run-up. Her only fair jump measured 6.63 and she finished 8th.