Aleksandra Nacheva of Bulgaria jumps to triple jump gold at the IAAF World U20 Championships Tampere 2018 (© Getty Images)
On a week where age proved no barrier to sheer, unbridled brilliance, Bulgaria’s Aleksandra Nacheva unveiled a stunning leap in the second round of the triple jump to take her nation’s first ever medal in the event: gold.
Despite Brazil’s Mirieli Santos producing a breakthrough effort of 13.81m and Cuba’s Davisleydi Velazco an impressive 13.78m, Nacheva’s winning margin was a whopping 37cm, indicative of an athlete with the ability to go as far as she dares to dream.
Nacheva was a silver medallist in the World U18 Championships last year and since then, her star has only ascended, the 16-year-old soaring over the 14-metre barrier for the first time last month.
She came to Tampere off the back of a surprising defeat at the European U18 Championships in Gyor, but it became clear early in Sunday afternoon’s final that the loss would be avenged in a big way.
Nacheva opened with a foul, then powered down the runway with the benefit of a mild breeze behind her (+1.6m/s) and sailed out to 14.18m.
That was a world U20 lead, the kind of jump no one in the field had ever approached, so from there the competition, as a contest, was essentially over.
Santos, however, tried her best to change that, the Brazilian leaping a PB of 13.81m in the fifth round to rocket up the standings to second.
Velazco, the athlete most tipped to challenge Nacheva, opened the competition in promising fashion with two jumps of 13.53m and 13.78m to seize the early lead but try as she might, she couldn’t improve on that in the rounds that followed.
Knowing gold was secure, Nacheva passed her final three attempts to seal a memorable victory.
“I didn't know where this result came from, it just came on its own,” said Nacheva. “It feels absolutely amazing to win the gold, this was the only medal for my country at these championships so I'm really happy to make my country proud.”
Santos was equally pleased with silver, aware she had come up against a virtually unbeatable athlete.
“The silver is a good achievement,” she said. “I'm really happy with my performance.”
Cathal Dennehy for the IAAF