Daegu, Korea – Dwight Phillips came to Daegu with little more than a formidable reputation and walked away with his fourth Long Jump gold medal in five championships.
After Australia’s Mitchell Watt, the World leader this year, could manage only an 8.06 on his final jump, Phillips had the luxury of sprinting down the runway one last time with nothing but the gold medal on his mind. He ran through the pit and pulled off his bib number – ‘1111’ – and held it up to the photographers.
Phillips and Watt took contrasting paths through the year. Phillips competed in the Shanghai Samsung Diamond League meeting, finishing fourth behind the Australian, and after failing to qualify by right at the US championships used his champion’s wild card to get to the championships.
But he was good when it mattered most, producing a season’s best 8.32 metres in qualifying and then going 8.31 and 8.45 with his first two jumps of the final to, as it turned out, wrap up the gold medal by the end of the second round.
Watt has ruled the roost most of the year, jumping a World lead 8.44 in the Australian Championships, improving it to 8.54 in Stockholm at the end of July. But he has also been battling an ankle injury in his take-off leg.
Tonight, the Australian fouled his first jump, leapt 8.33 on his second – the silver medal distance – but then was unable to improve. Twice he ran through the pit, and the last-round 8.06 was his only decent jump of the last four.
Watt bounded from near obscurity to a bronze medal in 2009, missed most of 2010 injured, has been the World leader since early in 2011. But the gold medal proved a jump too far and though he achieved the best-ever result by an Australian at a World Championships – and equalled the best ever at an Olympics – the loss of the gold will hurt.
Ngonidzashe Makusha finished third with 8.29 to take Zimbabwe’s first-ever medal at a World Championships. The 24-year-old, who also made the 100 metres semi-finals here, could have had an even better result – his 8.14 in the third round came from 26 centimetres behind the board.
The three medallists had all produced their best jump by the end of the second round and the competition petered out somewhat from there. Yahya Berrabah of Morocco took fourth with 8.23 (another second round jump); none of the top eight improved in the last four rounds.
Still, there was an air of generational change, with Watt only 23 and three 20-year-olds – Luvo Manyonga of South Africa in fifth place, Aleksandr Menkov of Russia in sixth and Will Claye of USA, ninth – in the final. Claye was coming back from the qualifying rounds of the Triple Jump this morning (he reached the final).
For the moment, though, 33-year-old Dwight Phillips rules the event.
Kim Deokhyeon was unable to take his place in the final. He is the only Korean athlete to qualify for a place in a final in Daegu; Kim Hyunsub finished sixth in the out-of-stadium men’s 20km road walk.
Len Johnson for the IAAF