Maykel Masso at the IAAF World Youth Championships Cali 2015 (© Getty Images)
In eight previous editions of the IAAF World Youth Championships, there had never been an eight-metre jump but on Thursday night, it was done twice as Cuba’s Maykel Demetrio Masso and Australia’s Darcy Roper served up a competition to remember with Masso eventually emerging victorious with an 8.05m winning jump.
Much had been expected of the highly touted Cuban and when the time came for the 16-year-old to show his vast ability on Thursday night, he delivered in sublime style.
Already leading the competition with a best of 7.79m heading into the fourth round, Masso powered down the runway with a slight following wind (0.5m/s) and sailed out to a championship best performance of 8.05m.
The moment he hit the sand, he knew it was good.
Masso rose to his feet, clapped in celebration and was visibly delighted when he saw his eventual winning distance flash up on the scoreboard. “I worked very hard in my preparation,” he said afterwards. “I stayed focused for every jump.”
After that fourth-round effort, gold was seemingly assured for the Cuban, but Australia’s Darcy Roper – who had led the qualifying rounds with a 7.88m effort – had other ideas.
In the final round, the 17-year-old produced a lifetime best of 8.01m to take silver from Brazil’s Eberson Silva, who finished third with 7.76m.
For Roper, the disappointment of not winning gold was forgotten amid the knowledge that he had jumped eight metres for the first time, broken the Australian youth best and moved to number 10 on the world youth all-time list.
“I’m an eight-metre man, so I’m not disappointed,” he said. “It would have been great to get the gold. I came here to win and give those Cubans a good go, but an Australian [youth] record, it’s amazing.
“I had been battling a bit of a glute problem, so to overcome that and use these conditions to help me get over eight was really good.”
Roper immediately predicted bigger things to come for himself in what looks a very promising future. If he can find another nine centimetres in the coming weeks, he can secure a spot at the IAAF World Championships in Beijing (August 22-30).
“I know that there is definitely a bit of room for improvement,” he said. “Technically there are a few things I can improve. To get a Beijing qualifier would be awesome.”
There was disappointment for Cuba’s second entrant, Juan Miguel Echevarria, who had come into the event with a best of 8.05m but could only manage a best of 7.69m on the night, which placed him fourth.
Perhaps surprisingly given their rich jumping tradition, it was Cuba’s first time striking gold in this event.
Cathal Dennehy for the IAAF