Standing at trackside fronting Eurosport’s coverage of day seven of the IAAF World Championships London 2017, Jonathan Edwards need not have worried.
The great Briton’s 22-year-old triple jump world record figures, the 18.29m he jumped at the 1995 World Championships in Gothenburg, remained unchallenged as the 2017 final unfolded.
Edwards had headed down on the train to London from his Newcastle home in the far north of England with his bicycle (his new passion after reporting on this year’s Tour de France) and the expectation that Christian Taylor would finally succeed in his mission to eclipse Edwards’ golden jump from Gothenburg.
As it transpired, during the course of a warmish and relatively wind-free evening, Taylor could not get himself into the groove that took him to 18.21m, the second best jump in history, when he won his second world title in Beijing two years ago – or to the 18.11m, world lead he jumped in Eugene in May.
Still, the competition was gripping enough, Taylor showing his mettle with a third-round effort of 17.68m to retain his title by three centimetres from long-time rival Will Claye, the US teammate who also took Olympic silver behind him in the London Stadium in 2012 and in Rio last year. Ten years after his world title win in Osaka, at 33 Nelson Evora of Portugal claimed bronze with 17.19m.
The 27-year-old Taylor is the first triple jumper to become a triple world outdoor champion, having prevailed not just in Beijing in 2015 but also in Daegu in 2011. Edwards, the champion in Gothenburg in 1995 and in Edmonton in 2001, is the only other multiple winner in the event.
Taylor also became the first male triple jumper to win back-to-back world outdoor titles.
"I have this watch from my sponsor with 18.30m on it,” he said. “I will try to fight; I will get this number. The record is still on. I am still motivated to break that record.
“This was not the night, I am a little disappointed. But the season is not yet over.”
Taylor struggled to get his run-up right in the opening round, stuttering his stride slightly before taking off short of the board and landing just shy of 17 metres: 16.97m, with a 0.2m/s following wind.
Claye had no such trouble and was clear in front at that stage with a measured 17.54m (0.2m/s), with Azerbaijan’s Alexis Copello in second (17.16m) and Cuba’s Andy Diaz third (17.13m).
In round two, Taylor started to get his act together, taking the lead by three centimetres with 17.57m (0.2m/s). That shunted Claye, who jumped 17.52m with his second effort, down to second. Evora moved up to third with 17.19m.
The ding-dong battle between the US teammates continued in round three, Claye regaining the lead with 17.63m (-0.1m/s). Taylor’s response? His best jump yet: 17.68m (0.2m/s) and the lead back in his grasp.
There it stayed. Neither man could register an improvement, Taylor jumping 17.26m, 17.38m and 17.03m with his last three efforts and Claye 17.49m, 17.53m and a foul.
"Will makes it difficult for me every time,” added Taylor, who now has a 21-20 record in triple jump head-to-heads with Claye. “This final was a fight.
“I enjoyed it. It makes the competition fun. If you do not have a rivalry like I have with Will Claye, then the sport is boring.”
For Claye, silver at least represented his best performance at an outdoor world championships. The 2012 world indoor champion bagged bronze outdoors in Daegu in 2011 and in Moscow in 2013.
"You can never complain about the silver medal,” he said. “But it is always just the second-best player in the field and I felt like I should have executed better today. I will just continue to work harder and whenever it is my time, I will be ready.
"With Christian, we both were in a good shape. He is not unbeatable. He just executed better and I was missing five centimetres.
"It is hard enough to make the US team, so when you make the team, you are expected to win a medal. I am glad we made the one and two.”
Evora, coached by Cuba’s four-time world outdoor and five-time world indoor long jump champion Ivan Pedroso, now has four world outdoor medals, the others being gold in Osaka in 2007, bronze in Berlin in 2009 and silver in Beijing in 2015.
He held on to this bronze despite a close assault from three rivals. The fourth-placed Cristian Napoles of Cuba, Copello and Christian Benard of the US all jumped 17.16m.
"I can be satisfied with another bronze medal,” said Evora. “Of course, I wanted more but it was a difficult season for me.
"Before the Doha meeting, my step-mother died. I grew up with her, and it was very difficult for me. I changed my coach, changed my training, changed all my life.
“I train with a legend now, Ivan Pedroso, and this medal is like a satisfaction for me.
"Jumping 17.19m is not the best performance but it brought me bronze so there is no reason to be unsatisfied. I want to dedicate this medal to my step-mother."
Simon Turnbull for the IAAF