On Thursday afternoon, two days before the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Eugene, Christian Taylor made a bold prediction about his triple jump competition. “I think this will be a game-changer,” he said.
On Saturday afternoon (27), the two-time Olympic champion was true to his word, unleashing a monster jump of 18.11m to take victory, the fourth longest jump in history.
The moment he exited the pit, the 26-year-old knew it was special, saluting the crowd and thumping his chest as he awaited confirmation. In a certain sense, he had compatriot Will Claye to thank for his heroics, as one jump earlier his biggest rival had usurped him at the head of the standings.
"I need the competition," said Taylor. "I feed off of it. He pushed me to get out of my comfort zone and jump."
Taylor opened with a wind-assisted jump of 17.82m (2.5m/s) but Claye proved he would make it a close battle with his world-leading third-round effort of 17.66m. In the fourth round, Claye equalled Taylor’s mark with a wind-legal 17.82m (1.7m/s) and took the lead on countback.
Then came Taylor’s whopping 18.11m (0.8m/s), but Claye showed he was not done yet, taking to the runway in the fifth round and sailing through the air to what looked a huge jump. He dropped to his knees on the track as he awaited the figures, and when a wind-aided 18.05m (2.4m/s) flashed up, his initial reaction was disappointment.
Claye stretched to capacity on his final effort, but his mark of 17.75m was no improvement, leaving Taylor with maximum IAAF Diamond League points, a world lead, a meeting record and an IAAF Diamond League record.
"It's Hayward Field, man, there’s magic in the air always," said Taylor. "I wasn't going to waste these conditions. You just have to take advantage of it."
Taylor is naturally now thinking that Jonathan Edwards' world record of 18.29m is within his scope this season. "I want the record more than ever," he said. "Every year I say that but it really just burns in me. I love the competition and I’m just going to push for it."
Farah too fast for rivals
Elsewhere Mo Farah continued his dominance in the men’s 5000m, winning in a world-leading 13:00.70 from Ethiopia’s Yomif Kejelcha (13:01.21) and Geoffrey Kamworor (13:01.35).
"I just used my experience to finish strong," said Farah. "I was getting clipped and pushed around, but you just have to be strong and hold your place. This track is special; what a way to end my career in the US."
Farah ran the race in the fashion his rivals have now come to expect, but once again none of them had an answer to the Brit when it came to crunch-time. Farah, as is his tendency, hung out in the latter half of the field for the first two kilometres, steadily creeping his way towards the leading pack as they reached halfway.
With four laps to run, he positioned himself in second, stalking the footsteps of world cross-country champion Geoffrey Kamworor. Farah swept to the front with two laps to go, pulling a group of seven athletes along with him. From there, he was headed only briefly, Farah never surrendering the inside line as he fended off the last-lap surges of Kejelcha and Kamworor to maintain his stature as king of the track.
However, in the concluding event, the Bowerman Mile, Ronald Kwemoi proved that he could be a serious threat to Farah if he steps up to 5000m at the IAAF World Championships London 2017. The Kenyan showed an impressive range of gears to snatch victory near the line in 3:49.04, his last lap a swift 53.73, ahead of Elijah Manangoi (3:49.08) and Timothy Cheruiyot (3:49.64).
Kipyegon all class in 1500m
Faith Kipyegon produced an equally dominant showing in the women’s 1500m, the Olympic champion once again having too much speed for her rivals on the final lap and coming home in blissful isolation in 3:59.67 ahead of fellow Kenyan Hellen Obiri (4:00.46) and Britain’s Laura Muir (4:00.47).
Caster Semenya continued her dominance in the women’s 800m, though the South African was made to work hard for her victory, fending off the late challenge of Kenya’s Margaret Wambui, 1:57.78 to 1:57.88. Francine Niyonsaba was third in 1:59.10.
"Even though it was a little bit tactical, I was just trying to hang on there until the last hundred," said Semenya. "The race was a little bit bumpy; it was a bit slow and hot out there."
Brazil’s Thiago Do Rosario Andre sprinted to victory in the men’s invitational mile in 3:51.99, well clear of Britain’s Chris O’Hare (3:53.34) and Norway’s Henrik Ingebrigsten (3:53.79). Back in 11th place, Henrik’s younger brother Jakob became the first 16-year-old to achieve a sub-four-minute mile with his clocking of 3:58.07.
In the women’s high jump, world champion Maria Lasitskene (nee Kuchina) showed she is well on track to retain her title in London later this year. Lasitskene, who was competing as a neutral athlete, took victory with a PB and meeting record of 2.03m.
The 24-year-old had a perfect series up to 1.98m, which she cleared on the second attempt, and after Kamila Licwinko and Vashti Cunningham bowed out with a best of 1.95m – with both failing three times at 1.98m – Lasitskene went on to clear 2.03m on her third try.
The men’s pole vault saw Sam Kendricks take victory with his first-time clearance of 5.86m, which would prove good enough after runner-up Renaud Lavillenie bowed out after being unable to go higher than 5.81m. Poland’s Piotr Lisek was third with 5.81m, while Sweden’s 17-year-old Armand Duplantis took fourth with 5.71m.
Cathal Dennehy for the IAAF