Star names come from behind to take triple jump and heptathlon titles in Eugene
The great champions find a way to respond when the pressure is applied – and both Yulimar Rojas and Nafissatou Thiam provided a textbook demonstration of this sporting rule at Hayward Field on day four of the World Championships in Eugene.
In the women’s triple jump, Rojas has become an unstoppable force. She is the Olympic champion, a three-time world indoor champion, the world record-holder indoors and out, and arrived in Eugene looking to win the third consecutive outdoor world title of her career.
So when Jamaican Janieka Ricketts went into the lead in round one with 14.89m (1.7), with Rojas only jumping 14.60m (0.3) and looking a little out of rhythm, you could detect the odd murmur of intrigue from the stands.
If there were any doubts, though, then Rojas’ second jump quickly dispelled them all. A leap of 15.47m (1.8), three metres shy of the championships record, put her entirely in a class of her own and secured the gold medal.
Attention now turned towards whether or not she might be able to break the outright world record of 15.74m set in Belgrade earlier this year. Her fourth jump looked big but, just as the 26-year-old looked set to embark on one of her flamboyant trademark celebrations, the red flag was raised and the wind gauge read an illegal 3.4.
Her final attempt was legal and measured 15.39m and though Rojas could not hide her frustration at not going further, there was still much to celebrate.
Ricketts’ early leap brought second place, while Tori Franklin reached 14.72m to win USA’s first ever World Championships medal at this event.
“More championships will come and I hope to continue adding titles to my country,” said Rojas after winning the seventh successive global title of her career. “Every meet, big or small, is a challenge to me.
“I came with the goal to get closer to my world record. The wind affected my run-up. I tried to adjust, but the most important thing was to win the medal and stay consistent over 15m.”
Like Rojas, Thiam is not particularly used to being the hunter rather than the hunted but, with one event to go in the women’s heptathlon, she had found herself needing to make up ground.
The two-time Olympic champion had held a 61-point overnight lead over Netherlands’ Tokyo silver medallist Anouk Vetter and extended that further to 83 points in the long jump with a leap of 6.59m (-1.8). Vetter produced a PB of 6.52m.
It was in the javelin, however, where the tables were turned. A huge second-round throw of 58.29m from the Dutchwoman (Thiam threw 53.01) gave her a slender 19-point lead going into the 800m.
Vetter’s personal best was slower than Thiam’s, but not by much, and if she could either beat her rival or finish within just over a second of her then gold would be hers.
The 2017 world champion produced the two-lap performance of her life, however, to clock a PB of 2:13.00 and come home well clear of Vetter’s 2:20.09.
Thiam finished on a world-leading 6947, while Vetter broke her own national record with 6867 and USA’s 21-year-old Anna Hall took the first majour honour of her career with a tally of 6755 after being cheered across the line by the home crowd as she finished first in the 800m.
Britain’s defending champion Katarina Johnson-Thompson was eighth on 6222 but, after major injury problems over the past couple of years, was content to see progress being made as the Commonwealth Games approaches.
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