The World Athletics Championships Budapest 23 has already been filled with upsets and surprises, but what would have been the biggest shock of the competition was averted on day seven when Venezuelan athlete Yulimar Rojas produced a last-round leap of 15.08m to win a record fourth world outdoor title in the women’s triple jump.
With three no-jumps and two below-par efforts of 14.33m and 14.26m on her second and third attempts respectively, the Olympic champion was languishing down in eighth place. The world record-holder was on the verge of losing her first global final since 2017.
The competition got off to a flying start, with two-time world silver medallist Shanieka Ricketts bounding out to a season’s best of 14.84m with the first jump of the evening.
Having missed out on qualifying for the women’s long jump final earlier in the championships, Ukraine’s Maryna Bekh-Romanchuk was out for redemption and her first leap landed at a season’s best of 15.00m, putting her in the lead.
Cuba’s Leyanis Perez Hernandez, the fourth-place finisher in Oregon last year, jumped 14.96m with her first attempt to slot into second place, the International Athletic Federation sources said.
Taking to the runway on her first attempt, Rojas broke the sand at what would have been good enough to move into the lead by about 20 centimetres, but it was a foul.
Bekh-Romanchuk, the long jump silver medallist in 2019, built up a solid series, recording leaps of 14.81m, 14.66m and 14.87m on her subsequent jumps.
Ricketts, meanwhile, improved to 14.87m to consolidate her position in third. Liadagmis Povea matched that in round four, but was one place behind on countback.
Thea LaFond went out to a national record of 14.90m to temporarily move into third, but the contest was far from over.
The focus quickly switched back to Rojas, who – given her eighth place – was first to jump in round six. For the first time in a long while, the three-time world indoor gold medallist was under immense pressure, facing the prospect of losing her title.Enlisting the support of the spectators for one last time, Rojas fed off the energy and bounded down the runway to hop, step and jump to a sublime 15.08m to move into the lead for the first time in the competition.But she still had to wait for her seven remaining opponents to take their final jumps.Povea jumped a solid 14.86m, but it was no improvement on her best. Ricketts then landed her best jump of the night, 14.93m, but it wasn’t quite enough to move into the medals, putting the Jamaican in fourth.Perez-Hernandez, now guaranteed the bronze, rounded out her series with 14.83m. It was then down to Bekh-Romanchuk to try to displace the Venezuelan superstar, but her last effort was an aborted one.“It was very difficult,” said Rojas. “The fact that I won the competition with my last attempt makes it very special and memorable. This is my seventh world championship gold in a row (outdoors and indoors), but this is the most special of all of them. My last attempt was proof of the hard work I have done, my mental state and my self-confidence. I didn’t care about the distance, the only thing I had in mind was to win the gold.
“After I won the Olympic Games in Tokyo, I said the next day that people in Venezuela would not work because everybody in the country would be celebrating. Well, now it will be more or less the same. I’m going to appear on the front pages everywhere. But more important, I’m going to be in the hearts of all the Venezuelan people.”European champion Bekh-Romanchuk was pleased with her silver, some consolation for missing out in the long jump.“Maybe people saw my calm, focused and confident face, but believe me nobody knows what I felt deep inside,” she said. “Of course, I was nervous, even a bit more than I had been at all previous championships. I just wanted to justify all the hard work I did to get this medal. You cannot imagine how many people helped me to step on the podium tonight, especially during last month when I got a couple of injuries.
“I have been training all taped up from head to toe, but I continued to do my job and to follow my dream,” she added. “Tonight, I just enjoyed my jumps, the whole competition and everything I did. I think Yulimar Rojas also had a difficult season, but I was sure she could jump over 15 metres. On the other hand, I knew it was my chance to get the gold. I jumped 15.00m so easily on the first attempt and I was ready to add more. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen today, but I will come back stronger and more confident.”Perez Hernandez, aged just 21, said the bronze medal will motivate her for future championships.“I knew that if someone was capable of changing the result at the last minute, it was Yulimar Rojas,” said the Cuban. “Even though I won a medal – my first at a World Championships – I am not satisfied with my performance. Today was not my day. I will continue to work hard and develop. I have some bitter feelings, but I am proud that I can take a medal home and put it around my mother’s neck.”