Cuba's Pedro Pablo Pichardo in the triple jump final (Getty Images) © Copyright
Preview Beijing, China

Preview: men’s triple jump – IAAF World Championships, Beijing 2015

As we contemplate how far Pedro Pablo Pichardo and Christian Taylor might push each other in Beijing – or anyone else who wants to beat them – it is worth recalling that the return to the era of 18-metre triple jumps began two years ago at the 2013 IAAF World championships in Moscow.

Then, on the last day of competition in the Luzhniki Stadium, Teddy Tamgho conjured up an 18.04m final jump to take the gold medal. It was the first 18-metre jump in more than 15 years, propelling the French jumper into a region previously inhabited only by world record-holder Jonathan Edwards and 1996 Olympic champion Kenny Harrison.

Now, two years later, Pichardo and Taylor have produced a season of jumping which has once more seen the mark attained on a regular basis. On five occasions, in three separate competitions – the Doha and Lausanne IAAF Diamond League meetings and Havana’s Barrientos Memorial – the pair have exceeded 18 metres with Taylor maintaining a 3-2 edge.

On a poignant note, the first of those competitions saw the demise of Tamgho, the Frenchman rupturing an achilles tendon in Doha and undergoing year-ending surgery.

So how far might the winner have to jump in the Bird’s Nest, maybe as far as Edwards’s fabulous world record of 18.29m, which celebrated its 20th birthday on 7 August?

And can anyone upset what appears to be a duopoly at the top of the event, either finding something approaching 18 metres themselves or in capitalising on the unlikely event that neither of the two favourites has a good day?

Courtesy of Taylor’s wild card, the US can field four competitors. Only one – Olympic silver medallist and two-time world bronze medallist Will Claye – has a personal best within striking distance of the top two. Claye reached 17.75m in winning his national title last year. Omar Craddock and Marquis Dendy have both reached their PB this year, jumping 17.53m and 17.50m respectively.

Portugal’s Nelson Evora was world champion in Osaka in 2007 with his personal best of 17.74m and won the Olympic title in the Bird’s Nest Stadium the following year. Such a record gives him the credibility to challenge the favoured duo, but a best of 17.24m this year suggests it is a bit of a long shot.

Russia has a strong tradition in the event and competitive credibility with world indoor champion Lyukman Adams, who won his national title with 17.34m on 5 August, and World University Games champion Dmitry Sorokin, but again they are some distance behind the top two.

With Tamgho forced to watch from the sidelines as he rehabilitates his ruptured tendon, it seems the only challenge to Pichardo and Taylor is to continue to perform at the high level they have set.

The question is which of the two will prevail on the day – and how far will he jump to do it.

Len Johnson for the IAAF