Li Yanxi of China qualifies for the men's triple jump final with a 17.30m PB (Getty Images) © Copyright
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Men's Triple Jump - qualification

With 39 athletes entered in the men’s Triple Jump it took the two qualification rounds just under two hours to conclude.

Although it proved a long contest there was going to be only one way to the final as 12 went further the required automatic qualifier at 17.10m. It was either in automatically or nothing today!

Most impressive of all was season leader and reigning World Indoor champion Phillips Idowu who has been picked as a likely candidate for gold by his compatriot and World record holder Jonathan Edwards.

Idowu’s opening 17.44m, his fourth best mark of the year, was achieved with such ease that legitimally one can expect better things from the 29-year-old national indoor record holder.

Three others only needed one effort to secure their qualification for Thursday night and those included World silver medallist Jadel Gregorio at 17.15m, runner-up in the world season’s lists Arnie David Giralt at 17.30m and former World Championships medallist Leevan Sands at 17.25m.

Reigning World champion Nelson Evora of Portugal who has yet to recover his 17.74m shape from 2007 leapt to a season’s best 17.34m after fouling his opening attempt. His ease was just as impressive and after a so-so season he seems to be back in top form.

There will be a second Cuban and a second British jumper in the final with both Onochie Achike, a former Commonwealth and World Junior champion, and Hector Fuentes, a former World Youth champion, advancing from group B respectively at 17.18m and 17.14m.

The loudest cheer from the back straight stand came when Asian champion Li Yanxi landed to a new personal best 17.30m to bounce into top standing in group B. After decent efforts at 16.93m and 16.83m, the 24-year-old Chinese champion regrouped to hop step and jump his way into the final. A Chinese man hadn’t made it to a triple jump final since Zou Sixin’s eighth place in Barcelona 1992.

Defending Olympic silver medallist Marian Oprea will be the only representative of the Athens podium with a chance of a medal repeat, the Romanian only just made it with a final round effort 17.17m. Three more Eastern Europeans complete the line-up for Thursday: Igor Spasovkhodskiy of Russia, Viktor Kuznyetsov of the Ukraine and Momchil Karailiev of Bulgaria.

The list of casualties reads like a who’s who of men’s triple jump with no fewer than six of the world’s season top ten failing to make the cut. Top of the list are Alexis Copello of Cuba whose 17.09m was a mere centimetre too short, Dmitrij Valukevic of Slovakia (17.08) and Randy Lewis of Grenada (17.06). All three have jumped further than 17.40m this year with Lewis reaching this standard twice. Here they were unable to match their best and had to leave the full house Olympic stadium with a sour taste in their mouth.

The defending bronze medallist Danil Burkenya had an even poorer showing his best of today being a disappointing 16.69m. Russia’s third man Alexander  Petrenko, him too well over 17.40 this year, faded badly with 16.88m as did US champion Aarik Wilson who was almost one metre and a half off his year best of 17.43m.

Disappointingly none of the three American jumpers made it past the qualification round, another setback for the US team after the men’s long jumpers experienced the same embarrassment on Saturday.

Laura Arcoleo for the IAAF