Mauro da Silva in the long jump at the 2014 IAAF World Indoor Championships in Sopot
Right from the very first jump of the competition, the gold medal was nominally in Li Jinzhe’s possession. The 24-year-old Chinese athlete set out his stall with an 8.19m effort and improved to 8.23m in the third.
Not until the sixth and final round did the 2012 Asian indoor champion relinquish pole position. He did so, in dramatic fashion, to the Brazilian who held the title.
Going into the final round, Mauro Da Silva was lying fifth, courtesy of an 8.06m first-round effort. Not wishing to go home empty handed, the 27-year-old proceeded to tear down the runway and soar out to 8.28m, equalling his two-year-old national indoor record.
Li had one last attempt to snatch the gold but the pressure told on the young man who has been advised for the past year by Randy Huntington, the long jump guru who guided Mike Powell to his world outdoor record 8.95m at the 1991 World Championships in Tokyo. Li overstepped the take-off board and trundled into the sandpit with his head in his hands.
Still, at least he had silver for consolation. Aleksandr Menkov, the outdoor world champion and 2014 world indoor leader (with 8.30m), appeared to be knocked out of his stride by Li’s first jump.
The red hot Russian favourite managed jumps of 8.01m, 8.07m and 8.08m (plus a foul) before bowing out in the fifth round, departing the arena without taking his last two attempts. He appeared to be overcome by dejection rather than injury.
Menkov’s fourth-round effort, the 8.08m, was only good enough for fifth place. Li took the silver with his 8.23m and Sweden’s Michel Thorneus claimed bronze with a fourth-round 8.21m.
Simon Turnbull for the IAAF