Aleksandr Menkov in the mens Long Jump final at the IAAF World Athletics Championships Moscow 2013 (Getty Images) © Copyright
Feature Moscow, Russia

No backing down in Menkov's record quest

Aleksandr Menkov knew the Russian Long Jump record would one day be his, but he never figured it would be like this.

On a day when he awoke with terrible pain in his back, the 22-year-old twice broke his nation's long-standing record and won the IAAF World Championship gold medal with amazing ease on Friday at Luzhniki Stadium.

“Today was very hard to get out of bed and I just stood in the shower for a long time, under the hot water, but once the competition started, I have to be honest and say that I forgot about the pain.”

Clearly, there was little residual discomfort by the evening as he soared to 8.52m on his third attempt and then stretched the Russian record to 8.56m with his fifth try, assuring victory in dominant fashion.

Both marks surpassed Leonid Voloshin's 8.46m set 25 years ago, when Russia was still part of the former Soviet Union, and gave Europe its first men's Long Jump title in the 30 year history of the World Championships.

It also meant that Menkov had improved 27cm since the start of the year, his previous best of 8.29m coming when winning at the IAAF Diamond League final in Brussels last September.

"I am really pleased with it," said a relaxed Menkov. "I was just focused on this (national) record for so long. Thank God tonight I could just overcome this milestone. It was a fantastic national record but I think I can do better, 8.50 is not my limit."

Even Mike Powell's stunning World record of 8.95m at the 1991 Tokyo World Championships could go by the wayside one day, he mused.

"That was a phenomenal jump," he added."But I think it is a limitless sport.

"You can jump 9.15m in the future. Not tonight maybe, but 15 years down the road I think we can seriously talk about it."

His winning jump was the longest in the world for four years and came in front of his wife, who is expecting their first child.

The Netherlands’ Ignisious Gaisah finished second in a national record 8.29m, but his best was 27cm behind Markov's winner.

Prior to Friday, the IAAF World Championships title had been exclusively North, Central American and Caribbean affair.

US legend Carl Lewis won the first two with Powell claiming the next two, then Cuba's Ivan Pedroso won four-in-a-row.

Dwight Phillips, who was 11th on Friday at age 35, took the four of the five next championships, the American winning in 2003, 2005, 2009 and 2011 with Panama's Irving Saladino triumphing in 2007.

Menkov, despite his young career, had struck gold several times on the continental stage, winning at the 2009 European Athletics Junior Championships, the 2011 European Athletics U23 Championships and the 2013 European Athletics Indoor Championships

However, success in a global competition seemed to evade him until Friday.

He did win the bronze medal at the 2012 IAAF World Indoor Championships but placed only 11th at the London 2012 Olympic Games and even came into the World Championships with a loss to Mexico's Luis Rivera, Friday's bronze medallist, in the World University Games on home soil in Kazan last month.

Seeking to atone for that loss was not on his mind, though.

"I have no concept of revenge," he said. “I just wanted to jump far."

“I have two more starts planned for this year, at the Diamond League meetings in Stockholm and Zurich. If I have the perfect conditions, I think, the result can be very good.”

They weren’t bad on Friday night either.

Gene Cherry for the IAAF