Mauro Vinicius da Silva of Brazil, who led the qualifiers with a lifetime best of 8.28m, led again when it mattered most, taking the Long Jump final on countback from Australia’s Henry Frayne with a leap of 8.23m.
It was a contest which could hardly have been closer. Aleksandr Menkov of Russia took the bronze medal with 8.22m and also had a foul on what looked to be a potential winner on the very last jump of the competition.
One centimetre covered the three medallists in the closest men’s Long Jump competition in World Indoor Championships history.
Da Silva’s 8.28m in qualifying came on his last jump. In the final, he was early by comparison, his 8.23m coming in the fifth round off a previous best effort off 7.77m in the fourth. He produced another 8.23m on his last jump, which turned out to be crucial, as it gave him the advantage over Frayne on countback.
Frayne’s problem was the opposite of the winner’s. Not only could he not produce two jumps of equal quality. He could not even produce two legal jumps until the fifth round, when he added a 7.89m to his 8.17m opening effort.
The 8.17m had given Frayne the lead after Menkov went 8.12m on his first jump. The Australian then produced three successive fouls as he strove for the big jump which would give his country a second gold medal in a row in the event following Fabrice Lapierre’s win in Doha two years ago.
First Menkov took the lead with his second-round 8.22m and when da Silva leapt the first of his 8.23m efforts, Frayne was in the bronze medal position with the likes of Will Claye of the US breathing down his neck. (Claye finished fourth with 8.04m.)
Having re-calibrated his run with the 7.89m, Frayne got it right in the final round, his 8.23m tying the lead. Three jumps of precisely the same distance had come in two rounds of the competition, but the gold was da Silva’s as his second-best of 8.23m was superior to Frayne’s next best of 8.17m.
If Frayne was deprived of the gold so narrowly, it was some consolation that his 8.23m was better than Lapierre’s winning jump two years ago and also that it took the Oceania and Australian indoor records off the 2010 winner. Lapierre actually set the record in qualifying, his 8.19m in that competition being two centimetres better than his 8.17m in the final.
Distances in the Olympic Games will obviously be longer, but the medallists here will no doubt fancy their chances of making an impact in London. No-one was talking about da Silva being a potential winner until the final jump in qualifying and a few weeks ago Frayne was a triple jumper.
Things can change quickly in an Olympic year.
Len Johnson for the IAAF