Tommi Evilä, who rescued the host nation from the possibility of an embarrassingly empty medal net with his bronze at the 2005 Helsinki World Championships, has bounced back from two seasons of frustrating injuries to set a new Finnish record in the men’s Long Jump (28).
Today in the Ullevi stadium, Gothenburg, Sweden, the Finn who turned 28-years-old on 6 April, flew to a 8.22m (+1m/s) performance improving his own national best of 8.19m from 2005.
Evilä, who has had a combination of back and knee injuries since 2005, showed first signs that he might be on the way back to elite status when he leapt 8.41m (+3.4m/s) late last year (8 Sep 2008) in the Ullevi to help Finland’s men win the annual match against Sweden. It was an important confidence boost especially as Evilä was men's team captain.
Despite that monster leap he had so far had a low key year in 2008 with three competitions providing a high of just 7.97m in Lapua, Finland on 8 June, with his second place finish (7.86m) in the Leiria edition of the European Cup in Portugal last weekend seen as equally disappointing.
Yet today's competition was Evilä's first with full speed this summer, as his other competitions had been only been taken with 16 or 18 strides in the approach.
Before today Evilä was still seeking a ‘B’ let alone an ‘A’ qualifying standard for Beijing. No such worries now, his victory over South Africa’s World Indoor champion Godfrey Mokoena (8.06m; +1.3), surpassed both standards (8.20 / 8.05) and will have secured with little doubt his place in the Finnish Olympic team.
In third place (7.85m; +3.8) was Finnish compatriot Petteri Lax, last year’s European U23 silver medallist, who beat Evilä to the national title last year.
Chris Turner for the IAAF
1) Tommi Evilä FIN 8.22 (+1,0)
2) Godfrey Mokoena RSA 8.06 (+1,3)
3) Petteri Lax FIN 7.85 (+3,8)
4) Michel Tornéus SWE 7.71 (+0,3)
Temperature was 15 degrees Celsius. Wind readings in the competition varied between +4.7m/s and -1.0m/s