Teddy Tamgho sails 17.58m in Bercy (Jiro Mochizuki (Agence shot)) © Copyright
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Tamgho and Idowu ready to tango in Paris - ÅF Golden League

Paris, FranceOne, at 30, reflected today on his amazement that he has survived until now in the sport. The other, at 20, looked optimistically to the future and spoke of concentrating on athletics after graduating from high school just last week. But tomorrow night Phillips Idowu and Teddy Tamgho will share common ground in what promises to be a gripping men’s Triple Jump in the Meeting Areva, the fourth leg of the ÅF Golden League 2009.

Idowu, the Beijing Olympic silver medallist, and Tamgho, the 2008 World Junior champion in Bydgoszcz, will be part of a world-class field in the Stade de France, one missing only Nelson Evora, the World and Olympic champion. It comprises three of the top four from the 2008 Olympics, the 2007 World Championships runner-up, and four of the five jumpers who have jumped 17.60m or farther this year.

Evora, from Portugal, leads the rankings this season (17.66) followed by the three Cubans who will be competing here, Yoandri Betanzos (17.65), Alexis Copello (17.65) and David Giralt (17.62). Next is Idowu (17.60) but the Briton suggested yesterday that the Cubans, all of whose best 2009 distances were set in April or May, may have peaked too soon.

However, Betanzos and Girat jumped 17.57 in June, only 3cm short of Idowu’s seasonal best in the same month, yet the Briton insisted:  “This year is looking to be quite tough - a lot of people have gone over 17.60 already. But that was way back in May. Holding that kind form from May until the third week in August (World Championships) - I don’t know if I would be able to do it.”

Adding that “my training sessions are telling me I’m in great shape”, Idowu continued: “I haven’t seen much of the Cubans – I’ve only jumped against one of them so far this year (Betanzos). This year has been a bit disappointing because there have not been many Triple Jump meets. I would like to have come up against the Cubans and Nelson a lot more often but it just hasn’t worked out that way.”

Idowu missed the 2003 World Championships in the Stade de France and he has been absent from the championships more often than he has been present. According to his own recollection, he has not competed here since 2002. “I’ve jumped here a couple of times and it wasn’t good,” he said. “I don’t think I’ve jumped more than 16.50 in that stadium.”

Having appeared in only two World Championships, with a best of sixth place in 2007, Idowu reflected ruefully:  “2003 I had a knee operation, 2005 I had a hamstring problem, 2007 I competed but I had a back problem”. And 2009? Now he perked up, smiling as he said: “World champ.”

It is the lost years that make him think he can go on for another five years. “Missing here and there has probably extended my career,” he said. “I’ve seen so many people come and go – Jonathan (Edwards) was around, he’s gone; Christian Olsson was around, he’s gone; some of the great Cubans have come and gone;  and I am quite surprised, considering how susceptible I am to injuries, that I’m still here, winning medals and jumping world-class distances.”

Looking ahead to the World Championships in Berlin, Idowu added: “If I can get a couple more big distances here and at Crystal Palace (July 24/25) I’ll be set. If I get what I want out of those two meets I’ll train right the way through until I get to the qualifying round in Berlin.

“Gold is always the target. I have worked too damn hard to go there setting my heart on silver. I know it is going to be tough but I can’t envisage anything else but the gold medal.”

Although hoping for good weather tomorrow, Idowu heard that the forecast is for rain, but he is prepared. “With rain, wind or whatever, I have just got to do what I need to do to win,” he said. “Everyone has got to jump in the same conditions and I’m not sure the Cubans are going to like it. I’ve had to jump into crazy headwinds, I’ve had to jump into swirling winds, I have had to jump into light drizzle so I’ll make do with what I’m given so long as I’m putting in good results. If it takes 16.90 to win, or if it takes 18.90, so long as I’m the one winning I’ll be happy.”

Tamgho, from the Paris suburbs, will be making his first appearance in the Stade de France. “It will be like jumping in Bercy indoors in front of the French public,” he said. This is significant for the World Junior champion because it was in Bercy last February that he jumped 17.58, a mark which only Italy’s Fabrizio Donato (17.59) managed to beat throughout the 2009 indoor season.

“I hope I will jump more than 17.50 tomorrow, I will be really motivated to do my best,” Tamgho added. Having passed his school exams with good results in maths, English and geography, but let down by his Spanish, he said: “I feel good because I just had my exam results a few days ago and I feel free now to think about athletics.”

It was with Tamgho in mind that meeting director Laurent Boquillet put the men’s Triple Jump on the programme. Is this an added pressure for the young athlete? “Not at all,” he said. “The meeting director called me to ask me what kind of field I would like to compete against and I said I would like to have all the French guys and the first guys from the Beijing Olympics.” Two other French jumpers, Benjamin Compaore and Karl Taillepierre, are also in the field.

David Powell for the IAAF