Cuba's Lazaro Martinez competes in the triple jump final at the World Athletics Indoor Championships Belgrade 22 (© Getty Images)
Up until last month, Lazaro Martinez had never competed indoors. But in the space of the past five weeks, the Cuban triple jumper won the World Indoor Tour and has now earned gold at the World Athletics Indoor Championships Belgrade 22.
Although he had the leading mark of all the entrants, Martinez wasn’t considered the pre-event favourite as he was up against the likes of Olympic champion Pedro Pichardo and defending world indoor champion Will Claye, both proven championship performers.
Indeed, Pichardo and Claye both raised their game and produced their longest jumps of the year, but Martinez proved to be too strong on the day. His opening-round leap of 17.64m held up as the best mark of the competition, despite Pichardo’s best efforts to dethrone the 24-year-old Cuban.
Just minutes after Martinez’s first-round effort, Pichardo opened with 17.42m, while Claye went out to 17.05m to move into third place. Pichardo then improved slightly to 17.46m in round two, consolidating his second-place position.
In round three, Martinez jumped 17.32m – still beyond his pre-competition outright PB. USA’s Donald Scott, meanwhile, moved into a medal position with a season’s best of 17.21m. Martinez produced another big leap in round four, breaking the sand at 17.62m. Claye tried his best to get back among the medals and improved to 17.19m in round five, but it wasn’t enough to catch his teammate Scott, who earned his first major championships medal.
Pichardo passed his final two attempts, while Martinez aborted his final jump in the final stage, not that it mattered – he had already secured the title.
Martinez, the 2013 world U18 champion and two-time world U20 champion, now joins an exclusive club of 19 athletes to have won individual world titles at U18, U20 and senior level. He is also the first Cuban athlete to achieve the feat.
“I’m very happy – 17.64m is a great jump, and it’s also my first major indoor medal,” said Martinez. “I trained very hard for this; everything was different this year. My training back home went very well and I felt very confident coming here.”
After winning his second world U20 title in 2016 and finishing eight in the Olympic final that year as an 18-year-old, Martinez suffered from niggling tibia problems. Yoelbi Quesada, the 1997 world champion, started coaching Martinez in 2018 and now the duo is reaping the rewards.
“This medal means a lot; it feels like it has opened the door to everything,” he said. “I’m looking forward to the World Championships in Eugene [the scene of his first world U20 title in 2014], where I hope to jump 18 metres. I am now the world indoor champion, so I have to confirm it outdoors there.”
With his 17.64m leap, Martinez moves to 16th on the world indoor all-time list, tied with outdoor world record-holder Jonathan Edwards, one place ahead of multiple world and Olympic champion Christian Taylor and two places ahead of his own coach, Quesada.
Jon Mulkeen for World Athletics
|MEN'S TRIPLE JUMP MEDALLISTS|
|🥇||Lazaro Martinez 🇨🇺 CUB||17.64m WL|
|🥈||Pedro Pichardo 🇵🇹 POR||17.46m NR|
|🥉||Donald Scott 🇺🇸 USA||17.21m SB|