Ivana Spanovic in the long jump at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Zurich (Jean-Pierre Durand) © Copyright
Feature Zurich, Switzerland

Spanovic now seeking to make more Serbian athletics history

Ivana Spanovic already has a small piece of athletics history as the first person from her country to win a medal at an IAAF World Championships, but she believes she can upgrade that and become the first senior Serbian athlete to stand on top of the podium at a global athletics event.

Whether at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, or the IAAF World Championships London 2017, Spanovic will be gunning for long jump gold.

Her belief has been fostered not just by two successive bronze medals at the past two World Championships, and another medal of that hue at the 2014 IAAF World Indoor Championships, but also by beating world champion Tianna Bartoletta at the IAAF Diamond League final in Zurich on Thursday.

So what did we learn about Spanovic on Thursday?

Firstly, that the 2008 world junior champion’s performances are still continuing on an upward curve.

This should be self-evident as she jumped another national record, extending it by a centimetre to 7.02m, after jumping 7.01m at the World Championships in Beijing to finish third.

Secondly, that she may not always win but she’s a true competitor.

Having held the lead with 6.93m, Bartoletta passed Spanovic with a last-round 6.97m with the penultimate jump of the competition. Many jumpers would have failed to respond, but Spanovic went straight on to the runway and flew out to 7.02m to grab back the victory.

Thirdly, come rain or shine, Spanovic can bring her best to a competition.

In contrast to Beijing, where sunny conditions prevailed, the weather on Thursday was cool and damp. Officially, the Zurich results sheet said the thermometer read 18C but many jumpers would testify that it felt several degrees chillier as dusk fell, and there were also intermittent showers.

However, on a night when many events didn’t live up to expectations – either due to post-event tiredness or the climatic conditions – the women’s long jump was one of the few exceptions, at least as far as the engaging duel between Spanovic and Bartoletta was concerned.

Great expectations

“I felt great and much more relaxed than in Beijing," said Spanovic. "There, I had a lot of pressure with people expecting me to get gold. I feel great now but I do not see it as a revenge (over Bartoletta and world silver medallist Shara Proctor, who finished third in Zurich)."

“I think I still have potential to improve. I know my mistakes and I will work on those.

“The competition was very exciting and, first of all, I am glad that I managed to stay focused and calm ahead of my third attempt (when she jumped 6.93m) after fouls in the first two rounds," she added, remembering how she had her friends and coach biting their nails.

"And after Tianna jumped 6.97m in the final round, I just laughed and accepted the challenge.

“I know I finished the competition with a national record but, to me personally, perhaps my better jump was my 6.93m. I had about 15 centimetres to spare on the board. This is an indication that I can do much more than 7.02m, but there will be plenty more competitions for me to try to go further.”

Spanovic’s coach Goran Obradovic chipped in that they had been experimenting with her approach run on Thursday.

"We tried to increase the momentum (on the run up) compared to Beijing," he said. "I asked Ivana to go as fast as possible on the run up, and that resulted in the fouls in the first two rounds. In the third round, it was a great jump to go over 6.90m in that situation.

“In a similar situation to Beijing, Bartoletta took the lead in the sixth round (at the World Championships, the US jumper went from third to first with her winning leap of 7.14m). Ivana responded will in Beijing (with her second jump of 7.01m in the competition) but she was brilliant here and responded as well as possible to beat a woman who is the world champion. You can’t ask for more than a personal best, a national record, and a victory."

Spanovic’s next competition will be at the IAAF World Challenge meeting in Berlin on Sunday (6). After two national records in her past two competitions, can Spanovic make it a hat trick in the German capital?

Phil Minshull for the IAAF