It is just 5 days until the start of the European Athletics Indoor Championships and as part of our extensive coverage, we are looking back on some of the great moments from its glorious history.
The crowds had started to thin out with the track programme already drawn to a close on the final day of the European Athletics Indoor Championships in Turin but those who left early missed one of the greatest - and most surprising - moments in championship history.
“Honestly I cannot tell you how I did it!” said Sebastian Bayer after breaking the European indoor record with 8.71m in the sixth round of the long jump final in 2009.
“I hit the board very well with some perfectly shorter strides before taking off. The jump felt simply perfect. When I landed I knew it was a long one, but I had hoped for maybe 8.30 or perhaps 8.40 metres. When 8.71m flashed up at the scoreboard, I was speechless.”
Bayer’s monumental performance was immediately compared to Bob Beamon’s legendary jump at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City - and this comparison had some substance. For starters, both jumpers were only 22 years old when they produced their feted performances and while Bayer improved his pre-competition lifetime best by 54 centimetres, Beamon improved the world record by 55 centimetres.
Having already improved his lifetime best to 8.29m to seal the title, Bayer rocketed up to second on the world indoor all-time lists behind Carl Lewis’ long-standing record of 8.79m. He struggled to articulate the scale of his performances to the journalists in the mixed zone but Bayer did say the pressure was off as he took to the runway for his last jump.
“I was relaxed before my jump, because I had already won. Additionally I got some extra adrenalin, because the German anthem was played for Ariane Friedrich shortly before I jumped,” he explained.
With a World Championships on home soil in Berlin just months away, Bayer was vaunted as one of the new finds of German athletics. He set an outdoor lifetime best of 8.49m in the lead-up to the World Championships but Bayer couldn’t reproduce that indoor magic outdoors, failing to reach the final.
Bayer had already fractured his foot in three places as a junior and his senior career was similarly plagued by injuries and inconsistency. He never won a global senior medal but when fit and in shape, Bayer still had the beating of Europe’s best.
After defending his European indoor title in Paris, Bayer claimed the European outdoor title in Helsinki the following summer but his next best showing outdoors was a fifth-place finish at the 2012 Olympics in London.
1 Sebastian Bayer (GER) 8.71m (European indoor record)
2 Nils Winter (GER) 8.22m
3 Marcin Starzak (POL) 8.18m
Top 3 from Prague 2015:
1 Michel Torneus (SWE) 8.30m
2 Radek Juska (CZE) 8.10m
3 Andreas Otterling (SWE) 8.06m
Championship and European indoor record: Sebastian Bayer (GER) 8.71m - Turin/ITA, 8 March 2009