50 Golden Moments: Edwards' giant leap at the 1995 European Cup

Jonathan Edwards
European Athletics

Jonathan Edwards was to have other triumphs during 1995 but the triple jumper’s memorable feat on 25 June that summer in the European Cup staged in what is now the Stadium Lille-Metropole, in the northern French town of Villeneuve-d’Ascq, fired the gun on his annus mirabilis.

Edwards had improved the British record by a single centimetre to 17.58m on home soil in Loughborough two weeks previously but that had just moved him up to equal 22nd on the world all-time list. Few people expected the European Cup judges to have to extend their tape measure beyond 18 metres.

However, having started with a wind-assisted 17.90m (+2.5m/s), that was still a Cup record and a distance only five men had ever exceeded regardless of the conditions, he gave immediate notice that something special was possible.

With his second jump, with the triple jump taking place down the back straight of the stadium and people in the packed main stand straining their eyes to keep track of proceedings, he soared his way through the air and landed beyond the measuring board alongside the pit that was calibrated to a fraction more than 18 metres.

“Oh my goodness, that is huge. That has got to be over 18 metres!” exclaimed the commentator covering the event for the British broadcaster BBC. Similar sentiments were uttered in a variety on languages by his counterparts around Europe.

Edwards also knew it was a massive even before the jump was measured. He clutched his head and smiled broadly, and then the figures 18.43m were quickly shown on the scoreboard. The following wind speed of 2.4 m/s flashed up barely a breath later.

Prior to this moment, only two Americans had ever exceeded 18 metres: Willie Banks with 18.20m (+5.2 m/s) in 1988 and his compatriot Mike Conley with 18.17m (+2.1 m/s) en-route to winning the 1992 Olympic title in Barcelona.

In the third round, he bounded out to 17.72m, which broke his own British record and moved him up to 14th on the all-time list then, amazingly, with what was to be his last effort of the afternoon, Edwards rode a gusting 3.7 m/s breeze to 18.39m before proclaiming himself to be “shattered”, calling it a day and passing his last two attempts.

Across the Atlantic, Edwards’ performance created headlines with American athletics aficionados having to digest the fact that the 29-year-old Briton had been an imperial barrier-breaker and become the first man to fly beyond 60-feet (18.29m).

“I'll never have a day like that again. I almost redefined the event there, and it was a scary feeling. " reflected Edwards in 2016.

“Afterwards, I was very disappointed. I think my 18.43m was worth between 18.20m and 18.30m legal. It was certainly worth more than (Wille Banks’ 10-year-old world record of) 17.97m.."

In the end, he had to wait barely a month before making the world record his own.

The mark was to be his on 18 July 1995 when he jumped 17.98m in the Spanish city of Salamanca – following on from another windy jump over 18 metres when he leapt 18.03m on his home club track in Gateshead on 2 July – and then the following month came his crowning glory at the World Athletics Championships in Gothenburg. 

Edwards became the first triple jumper to legally go over 18 metres with his first jump of 18.16m and then, sensationally, reached 18.29m with his second. It is still the world record to this day, almost 25 years later.

All his incredible achievements in 1995, starting with his massive leap in the European Cup, saw him end the year by being voted as both the male World and European Athlete of the Year.