Miltiadis Tentoglou of Greece won the men’s long jump in the most dramatic fashion on Monday as he leapt 8.41 metres in his final attempt to snatch the gold medal from Cuba’s Juan Miguel Echevarria.
Tentoglou was the world leader coming into Tokyo with an 8.60m leap at a domestic competition in May, but struggled to find his form and was outside the medals positions as he hit the runway for the final time.
He hit the board perfectly to match the leading mark, with his second-best jump of 8.15m assuring him the gold by edging out the Cuban’s 8.09m.
A limping Echevarria had one more chance to improve on his second-best effort but pulled up, sinking to his knees at the board, before being comforted by compatriot Maykel Masso, who won bronze with 8.21.
“What an incredible competition. What an incredible jump, the last jump,” the Greek said after winning his country’s first ever long jump gold.
“I wasn’t able to get it right at the start. But in the end I managed to pull something out to get the medal. I always have something left, something in reserve.”
Thirty years ago the greatest-ever long jump competition took place at the Tokyo National Stadium, the same site on which the Olympic Stadium now stands, when Mike Powell set the still-standing world record of 8.95m after an epic world championship duel with American Carl Lewis.
The empty new stadium amid COVID-19 related curbs and morning scheduling meant that Monday’s event felt a million miles away from that great night, and the athletes seemed to feel it as they struggled to find anything close to their best form, with Masso’s first-round 8.21 setting the modest pace.
Spaniard Eusebio Caceres was looking set for bronze with his final leap of 8.18m before Tentoglou’s final jump.