‘The world indoor champion has now become the world outdoor champion’. The moment it dawned on phenomenal Serbian long jumper Ivana Vuleta that she had the gold medal within her grasp, even with one more round of jumps to go, the 33-year-old fell to her knees, overwhelmed by emotion.
It seemed too good to be true that she had finally won a long-elusive World Athletics Championships gold medal at her fifth time of trying.
The two-time European champion’s emotions are understandable. With highly coveted laurels that include an Olympic bronze medal from Rio, two World Championships bronze medals from Moscow 2013 and Beijing 2015 respectively, two world indoor titles and five Diamond League trophies among many other achievements, as well as a massive lifetime best of 7.24m, Vuleta was, without doubt, the most accomplished athlete in the field of 12 at the World Athletics Championships Budapest 23.
However, her yearning for global glory had kept her going, and even though she was the oldest in the line up of a deep field of familiar foes that were a perfect blend of youth and talent, Vuleta would not be denied.
In the build up to the World Championships, a good number of these athletes had gone head-to-head and possessed a fair estimation of each other’s strengths.
During the qualifying rounds, the three-time European indoor gold medallist needed only one jump to advance to the final. She got the job done with her leap of 6.82m, which she recorded on her second attempt, having fouled in the first.
This evening, all she needed was one legal jump to cement her place as world champion. Just like the previous day, her second jump gave her the gold, after the red flag was raised on her first attempt, which was a massive jump that looked to be over the seven-metre mark.
Prior to the Serbian’s jump in round two, US champion Tara Davis-Woodhall had taken the lead with her first attempt of 6.91m (having topped the qualifiers with 6.87m) and was one of only three athletes to have gone over seven metres in 2023, coming with a season’s best of 7.07m to put her in pole position for gold.
Spanish athlete Fatima Diame responded to the US athlete with an equal personal best of 6.82m, and that was when Vuleta dug deep to produce a phenomenal season’s best of 7.05m, which changed the game.
The silver medallist from Oregon, Nigeria’s Ese Brume, moved to third with a season’s best of 6.84m, pushing Diame to fourth place. Interestingly, Brume was the only athlete in the field to record six legal jumps without fouling.
The standings remained the same for the top four for the better part of the competition. After failing to record legal jumps in the third and fourth rounds, Vuleta bounded to a sublime 7.14m, a world lead, which incidentally equalled the PB of the next best finisher, Davis-Woodhall.
And that was when it sunk in that she had indeed achieved the gold. The wave of emotions set in.
Davis-Woodhall was content to take the silver at her maiden World Championships as her first jump remained her best.
Fate dealt Brume a bad hand as Romania’s Alina Rotaru-Kottmann gradually clawed back into contention from almost the bottom of the standings, to change the dynamics of the podium places.
She started out with 6.51m, then moved to 6.72m, then made a longer jump of 6.75m on her fourth attempt before knocking Brume off the podium with her final jump of 6.88m, 4cm longer than the Olympic bronze medallist’s best.
Larissa Iapichino settled for fifth position with a best effort of 6.82m.
Diame, who had shown much promise in the earlier rounds, would have needed to better her PB to be in contention for a medal. However, she recorded three invalid jumps and stayed at sixth while her teammate, Tessy Ebosele, who kicked off her campaign with 6.62m, faded to eighth place as that was her best effort of the evening.
African champion Marthe Koala (6.84m), who was second overall in the qualifying rounds, could only manage a best of 6.68m.
Former world leader Ackelia Smith (7.08m) could only record one valid jump of 6.49m to finish in 11th spot.
USA’s Jasmine Moore was 10th with 6.54m, while the bronze medal winner from last year’s World Championships, Leticia Oro Melo, finished a distant 12th (6.12m).
|WOMEN’S LONG JUMP MEDALLISTS|
|🥇||Ivana Vuleta 🇷🇸 SRB||7.14m WL|
|🥈||Tara Davis-Woodhall 🇺🇸 USA||6.91m|
|🥉||Alina Rotaru-Kottmann 🇷🇴 ROU||6.88m|
Credit: World Athletics