Four years after missing out on an Olympic medal by 10 centimetres, Kazakhstan’s Olga Rypakova returned to the Games to collect gold in the triple jump. And she revealed that her performance in Beijing, despite the fact that her effort of 15.11m was only enough for fourth place, was crucial in her victory here.
"In Beijing it was my first competition at such a high level and I was so happy that for the first time I jumped over 15 metres," said the 27-year-old. "It was unbelievable to me. I had thought all my rivals and fellow competitors were stronger than me, but at that moment I felt I was able to compete with them and that at the next Olympic Games in London I could be a champion."
And in the aftermath of a victory which had delivered Kazakhstan’s first Olympic track and field gold medal since Olga Shishigina won the 100m hurdles at the 2000 Sydney Games, Rypakova revealed that she had been inspired here by the active support of her namesake.
"Watching Olga Shishigina winning in Sydney was amazing," said Rypakova. "When I saw her running I was so excited, but I worried so much about her! It was a great victory for all of us in Kazakhstan. In that moment of victory I felt she was a great athlete. Nobody knew about Kazakhstan at that time and when she won the gold medal I felt proud for my country.
"Now I feel very happy that I have continued that tradition. We have the same name, Olga, and before the Olympics she spoke to me and wished me good luck and told me I could win the gold. She said she would support me and I am very happy that I didn’t let her down and I didn’t let my country down."
Although Rypakova – who was born in Kamenogorsk but now lives in the same city as Shishigina, Almaty – has now achieved the ultimate victory in the triple jump, she has arrived at this point in a roundabout fashion given that her career initially saw her competing in the heptathlon, where she achieved a best of 6113 points in 2006.
The following year she began to concentrate on her jumps, and competed at the 2008 Beijing Games in both the long jump – she has a 2007 personal best of 6.85m – where she failed to reach the final, and the triple jump.
Since those Games, Rypakova’s new confidence in her ability to compete at the highest level in the triple jump has been reflected in her results. She earned gold at the 2010 World Indoor Championships in Doha with an Asian record of 15.14m – the third best indoors of all time behind Ashia Hansen and Tatyana Lebedeva.
At last year’s World Championships in Daegu, she was a silver medallist with an effort of 14.89m behind the competitor who took bronze here, Olga Saladukha. The Ukrainian commented after her third-place effort: "A week before the Games I had an injury and I wasn’t sure whether I would compete. So for me this bronze feels like a gold medal."
Rypakova’s progress continued earlier this year when she took silver with an effort of 14.63m at the World Indoor Championships in Istanbul, which meant she arrived in London in an ideal state of mind to challenge for the gold she had felt could be within her grasp four years earlier.
"I am so happy because my dream came true," she said. "When I was a little girl I never thought that I would actually do something like this. The most important thing is to train hard and to be confident. Now I want to go home after this success and share my happiness with all my relatives and friends.
"I am so excited with my gold medal. Everything went well for me. I would like to thank all my fellow jumpers for such a good competition. All the jumpers have a very good rivalry. We have a very friendly group, and while of course we all want to win, we are very supportive of each other."
Rypakova added that one of her jumps which was ruled as a marginal foul had been longer than her winning effort of 14.98m.
"It was a very good, very technical attempt," she said. "I felt my jump, and my run was also good. But I made a little mistake on the board. Without exaggeration I think the jump was around 15.18m. Of course I felt very sorry for this little fault. But the most important thing was that my dream came true."
Mike Rowbottom for the IAAF