Illustrating competitive nerve and verve beyond his 19 years, Cuba's Juan Miguel Echevarria emerged victorious in one of the most competitive World Indoor Championships long jump finals in recent memory.
Leading from the opening round, Echevarria sparred with the heavily favoured world champion Luvo Manyonga nearly blow-for-blow in the second half of the competition before becoming, at age 19 years and 203 days, the youngest field event gold medallist at an indoor world championships.
Opening with an 8.19m opening effort, Echevarria improved to 8.28m in the second, with just two others in the field, defending champion Marquis Dendy and South African Ruswahl Samaa, producing a leap beyond eight metres, each at 8.02m.
The competition didn't fully spring to life until round three when Manyonga found himself against a wall after two (long) fouls -- one more would consign him to the nearby row of spectator seats.
He responded well, reaching 8.33m to stay alive and take the lead. In the next round, Echevarria responded in kind, jumping 8.36m to retake command. But Manyongo had more. Blasting down the runway, Manyonga went on to sail 8.44m through the still Arena Birmingham air, a world lead and another African indoor record.
Echevarria's response? Thanks for bringing it on.
He replied with a world lead of his own with an 8.46m leap, ultimately the best leap of the night. Manyonga fouled on his two last attempts, conceding the victory to Cuba's latest rising long jumping star.
While he didn't land in the Birmingham chill as a favourite, Echevarria did piece together a season that suggested a medal finish could be a realistic ambition. Opening with a 7.97m victory in Karlsruhe in early February, he improved to 8.34m in Metz to equal his absolute best set last year. Showing solid consistency, he reached 8.20m in his last pre-championships appearance, taking the victory in Linz on 18 February.
"I'm delighted with the result," said Echevarria, who missed podium finishes at the 2015 World U18 Championships and World U20 Championships in 2016. "It was a very tough competition, very tight with very close margins. But I was prepared physically and mentally for the event."
If Manyonga was disappointed, he didn't show it.
"This is my first ever world indoors and only my third ever indoor event, so it means a lot to get a medal," the South African said.
Rounding out the deep podium finish, Dendy reached 8.42m in the penultimate round, his farthest ever leap indoors. His was the best bronze medal-winning jump ever at these championships.
Further back, Jarrion Lawson of the US was fourth with an 8.14m best, two centimetres ahead of Yuhao Shi of China. Samaai improved to 8.05m in the third round to finish sixth.
Bob Ramsak for the IAAF