Greek athlete’s last round jump wins Olympic title on countback from Juan Miguel Echevarría and Maykel Masso in Tokyo
It was not the most exciting long jump contest for most of Monday morning as it appeared Cuba were sailing to an easy one-two. But both their athletes, world indoor champion Juan Miguel Echevarría and Maykel Masso, injured themselves in the competition and they were denied in a stunning final round as Miltiádis Tentóglou snatched gold with what turned out to be the final jump of the competition.
It was Cuba’s former world youth and junior champion Masso who led the opening round with a 8.21/0.4 leap. World leader and European champion Tentóglou was second with 8.11/0.4 and Echevarría was third with a solid 8.09m opener with Swede Thobias Montler leaping 8.08m to lie a close fourth.
A clearly injured world champion Tajay Gayle no-jumped and paid no real part in the competition as he ended up 11th with 7.69m.
Little of note happened in the second round as Doha world finalist Eusebio Caceres of Spain jumped 8.09/0.1 to go third on countback while Tentóglou and Echevarría jumped further but with no-jumps. Masso seemed to injure himself and took no further jumps.
The third round saw Echevarría finally get it right and he jumped 8.41/0.2 – a distance that has never failed to win an Olympic medal and would have been good enough to win the last three Olympics. Crucially he had 22 centimetres to spare on the board and the battle for gold looked over.
JuVaughn Harrison, who had finished seventh in the previous night’s high jump, had started rustily with leaps of 7.57m, 7.70m and 7.96m in the first three rounds and the American moved into third with a 8.15/0.0 fifth round. It did not stay long in that position as in the same round Tentoglou matched that distance and his 8.15/0.1 moved him ahead of the American on countback.
In the final round Montler had a great final jump in the vicinity of 8.40m but it was a no jump by a centimetre. Next up was Caceres and his last jump was an excellent 8.18/-0.1 and that moved him up to third briefly.
Tentoglou was next to jump and he responded brilliantly to losing his medal by sailing out to 8.41/0.1. That distance matched the Cuban leaders but importantly his second best put him ahead on countback. He had two centimetres to spare on the board and his take off speed was 41.2km per hour.
In theory there were still two jumps to go but Masso was injured and couldn’t jump. Echevarria lined up and, surprised his lead had gone, he had to take his final jump but halfway through his run up it was clear his injury was too bad and he did not get as far as the take-off board and Greece had gold and Cuba silver and bronze.
It was Greece’s first medal of any sort in the long jump. Tentoglou stated it was his life ambition to win gold at Tokyo and he was encouraged to take up the sport by his first coach Vangelis Papanikos.
“I liked to try different things from a young age. In addition to long jump I also did cycling, skateboarding and rollerblading before focusing on my sport.”
Nick Miller through to hammer final
Commonwealth champion Nick Miller excelled to make the hammer final with a 76.93m throw. Only five athletes made the automatic 77.50m headed by European champion and four-time global bronze medallist Wojciech Nowicki who threw 79.78m with American Rudy Winkler next best with 78.81m while third best Eivind Henriksen set a Norwegian record 78.79m.
Double world champion and world leader Paweł Fajdek, who had failed to make the Olympic final at both London and Rio, again suffered Olympic nerves and was well short of qualifying with his first two throws but a unconvincing final throw of 76.46m proved sufficient as ninth best.
Britain’s Taylor Campbell also struggled with a modest best of 71.34m he ended up just 28th out of the 31 throwers.
Miller, who spoke before the second group had thrown, said: “I really prefer to compete in the evening, so I found this morning hard, but I did what I needed to do, and I think I’ve made the final. The second-round throw was a decent distance and what I needed on the board.
“Third in the qualifying group isn’t a bad place to finish but I know I have more to give. I’m going to go back to the village and wait for the results, but I’ll begin my preparations as if I am in the final.
“I have a couple of days now to recover and reset ready ahead of Wednesday’s final and I’m really hoping that I have secured a place in my first Olympic final.”
Campbell said: “I just didn’t make the right changes out there. I warmed up really well, then I just went into the competition and I just shut down a little bit too much. Didn’t commit to it the way I was in the warm up.
“I’ve got to mature in the event a little bit more, I’ve got to get familiar with throwing these distances, its too easy to throw a bit soft, but when you’re trying to throw fast your body just moves quicker and if you haven’t put enough tension down it you pay the price and that’s what happened today – I didn’t set it up properly and it was scrappy.
“I did good to get here but I just wish I could have competed and done the selection a bit of justice. I’ve got to go back to the drawing board and prep for the next three years. I’ve still got to qualify for the next champs, so I’ve got to focus now and improve that and do better in Paris.”