Will Claye in the triple jump at the IAAF World Indoor Championships 2018 (© Getty Images)
In an event that combined youth and experience, it was the latter that came out on top as Will Claye regained the world indoor triple jump title he won six years ago.
It was a hard-fought contest, though, in which the lead changed numerous times in the first four rounds and ended up being the closest triple jump final ever at the World Indoor Championships as just three centimetres separated the medallists.
Portugal’s 2007 world and 2008 Olympic champion Nelson Evora, one of the more experienced finalists, was the leader at the end of the first round after opening with 17.14m. Azerbaijan’s Alexis Copello jumped 17.17m in round two to take a temporary lead until Brazil’s triple jump newcomer Almir dos Santos responded with 17.22m at the end of the second round.
Evora regained the lead in round three, sailing out to a Portuguese indoor record of 17.40m. Earlier in that round, Burkina Faso’s Hugues Fabrice Zango produced his best mark of the final with 17.11m, which at the time was good enough for fourth place.
Claye, who was sitting in sixth place at half way, then found his rhythm. Just as he had done when winning this title in Istanbul in 2012, he produced his winning mark in the fourth round, leaping 17.43m.
In the next round, Dos Santos produced his best leap of the competition – and of his life – when bounding out to 17.41m, but, agonisingly for the Brazilian, it was just two centimetres shy of Claye’s best mark.
Evora and Claye were unable to improve in the final two rounds, but Claye finished with solid leaps of 17.35m and 17.31m. Claye’s winning leap of 17.43m was the best jump at the World Indoors since his 2012 triumph.
“I have only had one practise session this whole season, so I was just trying to get in my rhythm,” said Claye, who has hinted that he may skip the outdoor season to focus on his music career. “It came together on one jump. A win is a win so I will take that.”
Copello wound up fourth, while USA’s Chris Carter jumped 17.15m in round five to move Zango down to sixth. Defending champion Bin Dong was eighth with a best of 16.84m.
Although he finished down in 14 with 15.96m, 41-year-old Italian Fabrizio Donato became the oldest ever field event finalist at a World Indoor Championships.
Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF