Yulimar Rojas in the triple jump at the IAAF World Indoor Championships Birmingham 2018 (© Getty Images)
Despite not having competed since August shortly after claiming the world outdoor crown in London, Yulimar Rojas defended her global indoor title with a 14.63m world leading-performance.
In a thrilling contest which saw the medalists swap positions during the tense final minutes, the 22-year-old Venezuelan’s leap is the furthest mark indoors since her own 14.79m 14 months ago.
With a consistent series of 14.24m, 14.07m and 14.27m in the opening rounds, the 2016 winner was pushed to unleash a 14.36m jump to head back into the bronze medal position, before bounding to her winning 14.63m leap which comfortably propelled her straight back into the top spot - with a loud, admiring gasp from the crowd, together with an excited shout of excitement from Rojas herself.
“This is a great achievement for my nation, I hope I brought a bit of joy for them and they enjoyed watching it,” said Rojas, who is coached by 2000 Olympic long jump champion Ivan Pedroso.
“It was a difficult competition and it has given me great inspiration for the summer.”
Jamaica’s Kimberly Williams led until Rojas’ fifth round effort with a 14.48m lifetime best from the third round.
The 29-year-old bronze medallist from the 2014 event also improved her 14.16m season’s best - set in Birmingham as a guest of the British Championships a fortnight ago - on five occasions in the competition which fielded 17 starters.
With 14.37m and 14.41m leaps prior to her best mark, the often Birmingham-based athlete could only respond to Rojas with 14.31m and 14.32m.
“I’m excited as I was able to upgrade on my jump from bronze last time to silver,” said Williams, whose previous indoor best of 14.39 was set in Sopot four years ago. “I had two personal bests out there so I’m glad I put a decent series together.
“I was leading for a while but I couldn’t respond, that’s just how it goes in triple jump - I have to work harder next time to get a gold.”
Taking surprise bronze was Spain’s Ana Peleteiro, who leapt an 18 centimetre lifetime best with 14.40m in the fourth round.
The 22-year-old European U23 silver medallist had a conservative start but shot into the top eight with 14.18m on her third attempt, before her fourth brought her into the medal picture.
“Happy, happy, happy - that is how I am feeling, I am so emotional,” said Peleteiro, who took the 2012 world junior title and finished seventh at the world championships last summer. “It was a wonderful experience but it was a hard competition. I feel delighted to be able to compete with these girls.”
Romania’s European U23 champion Elena Andreea Panturoiu equalled her 14.33m personal best on her fourth attempt to finish fourth, one spot better than in the 2016 edition. For a time, that distance held the silver medal spot.
The world leader at 14.53m coming into the event, Keturah Orji of the USA leapt 14.31m in the penultimate round to finish fifth, one place down on her 2016 placing.
Paraskevi Papahristou of Greece, the 2016 bronze medallist, could only reach 14.05m for sixth while Viktoriya Prokopenko, competing as an authorised neutral athlete, jumped the same distance and finished seventh.
Tori Franklin of the USA registered a 14.03m to finish eighth.
Nicola Sutton for the IAAF