Spanovic strikes gold with a dream display

Spanovic strikes gold with a dream display
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Ivana Spanovic delivered the best long jump performance of her career achieving 7.24m in front of her Serbian fans at the Belgrade 2017 European Athletics Championships.

Had Ivana Spanovic written the script of how she would like her home European Athletics Indoor Championships to go, she would have started with a gold medal. She may have thrown a national record into the mix, she may have stretched to the longest jump of her life, and just for good measure she may have added a tumultuous reception from the crowd that she would never forget.

Sometimes hopes and dreams do come true.

This afternoon in the Kombank Arena, Spanovic, 26, delivered one of the greatest performances ever seen at a major championships – world or European, indoor or out.

Those fans who had a ticket to be here will always remember the day their heroine thrived on the pressure which comes with being the poster girl to win gold with a jump of 7.24m, a distance so startling that she could not believe it herself.

If she had nerves because of the expectation, she never showed it.

And to think, she started with a foul from the first round. Talk about teasing us all!

A stunning series of three jumps then followed – and it seemed her second round effort of 7.16m was going to be the most amazing moment of the day.

The noise was immense but a round later, the roof could have come off as Spanovic landed in the sand again.

Surely it could not be further?

To add to the suspense, the distance took an age to come through...and it was perfect drama.

Spanovic was sitting on the track by the side of the pit, looking high up into the air for the result on the scoreboard which hung from the ceiling and when it showed 7.24m, she just fell back, stretching her arms out wide as the pack of photograhphs snapped up the picture of these Championships as Spanovic moved to third on the all-time indoor list.

What a jump, what an outcome. What a way to land gold in front of your own fans, when the pressure was at its greatest for an athlete who has now won medals at the last six global championships she has competed in.

But never like this, never on a Sunday of such compelling viewing.

“It was really important for me to perform well today,” said Spanovic. “I enjoyed every minute of competing in front of this home crowd. The people were amazing and I am really glad that I could give them this gold medal.”

She was not finished either, reaching 7.17m in the fourth round before bowing out with a foul and 6.73m.

Behind her was almost a separate long jump event of such quality, too, as Lorraine Ugen, of Great Britain, broke the national record with 6.97m in the second round for silver and Germany's Claudia Salman-Rath smashed her personal best to win bronze with 6.94m from the fifth round.

As the competition ended, the crowd stood as one as Spanovic set off on the greatest lap of honour she will ever perform.

It is now three European golds in a row after her outdoor glory in Amsterdam last summer and how fitting that her medal ceremony had always been scheduled to be the last of the championships. A perfect finale, a perfect day.