A few years ago Eminem used to sing ‘one shot, one opportunity’.
Tonight, this motto belonged to South American record holder Maurren Higa Maggi who only needed ‘one shot’ to become Brazil’s first ever female Olympic champion and the country’s first gold medallist since Joaquim Cruz’s 800m Olympic title 24 years ago!
With the world season leader Naide Gomes unable to survive the qualification rounds three days ago, Maggi was catapulted into the seat of hot favourite with her 6.99m season’s best being top of the entry lists for tonight’s final.
Aged 32, Maggi hit the board to perfection the first time around and completed what would remain the longest jump of the evening at 7.04m.
But as it turned out, it was only just as defending Olympic champion Tatyana Lebedeva concluded with a seven metre plus six round effort which left Maggi holding her breath until the score board flashed 7.03m.
She had made history by just one centimetre!
But the real fairy tale of the competition was the story of Blessing Okagbare who at the age of 20 won her country’s second medal in the history of the women’s Long Jump after Chioma Ajunwa took gold back in 1996.
Okagbare was unfortunate enough to be the first athlete left out of the final as her 6.59m from the qualification round placed her in thirteenth. However, Okagbare was reinstated in tonight’s final after Lyudmila Blonska (who had jumped 6.70 in the qualification round) was disqualified from the competition for failing a doping test.
Okagbare also took her chance and her opening personal best of 6.91m survived assaults coming from all angles to hold on to a medal. And to think she had to spend 48 hours trying to recover from the disappointment of not making it through to the final only to be told she would actually be in that final less than 24 hours ago.
“It’s the biggest moment of my life,” Okagbare said. “Everything is a big miracle. I could not believe that I was out, and when I heard last night I was in the final, it was my time.”
“I took the courage to do it. After the qualification, everyone was disappointed. I never knew what happened, and today I knew I had to remove the shade from my eyes and do something.”
Jumping in second, Lebedeva was the first to score big tonight as she opened with 6.97. Her mark didn’t survive Maggi’s opener, and eventual winner, but remained safely in second after Okagbare concluded round one with her own personal best.
The competition had virtually ended after the first round as Jamaica’s Chelsea Hammond also opened with a personal best 6.79 which she would not improve on and which would remain safely in fourth.
US champion Brittney Reese who had been the best in the qualification rounds at 6.87 couldn’t do better than a second round 6.76 which left her in fifth.
Heptathlon Olympic champion Carolina Klüft did not make the cut after managing only 6.49, a bitter result which prompted her to declare about her future: “Hopefully I’ll do both (Long Jump and Heptathlon).
Another potential medallist to fail badly was Maggi’s team-mate Keila Costa who could only master 6.43 after fouling her first two attempts.
As all the athletes bar one set their best of the evening in either the first or second attempt, the Long Jump final failed to entertain – incidentally Lebedeva registered 4 fouls and Maggi 3 fouls – until the defending champion prepared for her last attempt.
Winner of the Triple Jump silver medal earlier this week, Lebedeva’s last round was big. In the end, it proved not big enough as she was just one centimetre off becoming only the second woman to win two gold medals in the event. Had she hit the board better, she may have joined Heike Drechsler in the history books.
“After the last attempt, I cried. ‘Why, why’. I cried ‘why, why’?” Lebedeva said. “I tried everything, I fought everything. But maybe I lost my faith after the Triple Jump.”
Meanwhile, Maggi decided against taking her sixth attempt and instead went off to celebrate her second medal of the year after her silver at the IAAF World Indoor Championships.
“I wanted a medal,” she said. “It didn’t matter which one. I’m really happy to win gold. It’s not an ending. I’ll keep training in the future and I’ll go to London 2012.”
Laura Arcoleo for the IAAF