Malaika Mihambo was in a perilous position after two attempts in the long jump final. She took off from too far behind the board with her first attempt and her second jump was a sizeable foul. Her only valid effort of 6.52m thus far would not have made the cut and would have abruptly ended the excellent unbeaten streak she has amassed outdoors in 2019.
But Mihambo made all the necessary technical adjustments for her third attempt and the European champion hit the board with the same speed and zeal, soaring through the rarefied air in the Khalifa International Stadium to an effort which put Jackie Joyner-Kersee’s long-standing championship record under some jeopardy.
Mihambo fell short of Joyner-Kersee’s 32-year-old championship record of 7.36m but her third round effort of 7.30m was the best result by a European performer in fifteen years and the third best jump in World Championships history, bettered only by Joyner-Kersee’s 7.36m from 1987 and her winning jump of 7.32m from 1991 to regain the title. Not even Mihambo’s venerable compatriot Heike Drechsler jumped further at the IAAF World Championships.
“On my first attempt I had too many quick steps and the 6.52m jump was not enough. The second attempt was a fault, I stepped on the board. The third attempt had to work. I told myself 'You have to make this one valid, no matter what.' And it worked,” said Mihambo before reflecting on her phenomenal gold medal-winning effort. “7.30m is amazing, I do not know if I will ever jump that far again in my life.
"I was telling myself [after two jumps] the next jump is not going to be a foul. It is going to be something but I wasn’t trying to jump 7.30m - in the end it just happened.”
Mihambo elected to forego her fourth round attempt but the German added two more seven metre-plus jumps to her account with 7.09m and 7.16m respectively which would have also been sufficient for the title ahead of Maryna Bekh-Romanchuk from Ukraine who added the world silver medal to her European medal from Berlin 2018 with 6.92m. Nigeria’s Ese Brume won bronze with 6.91m.
The javelin title slipped out of Germany’s hands as Anderson Peters from Grenada took an improbable title with his fourth round effort of 86.89m to beat a mighty European contingent which had assembled for the final. World leader Magnus Kirt from Estonia won silver with 86.21m but had to be stretchered away from the arena after landing awkwardly on his shoulder on his fifth attempt. He was able to collect his silver medal during the medal ceremony at the end of the session though.
Reigning champion Johannes Vetter has looked back to his best in recent weeks and led qualifying with 89.35m but the German didn’t throw to his full potential in the still conditions in the Khalifa International Stadium. Vetter also revealed he is still suffering from injury problems but he still took bronze with 85.37m and will undergo foot surgery next week.
“Although the level was not that high today, I cannot say that I lost gold tonight. I won the bronze medal,” he said. “This year has been weird. I have had health problems since the 2018 German Championships plus there were some family issues. This is a heavy burden for me but despite all of this I got a medal here and I am very proud of it.”
Medals for Belgium and Poland in 4x400m relay finals
After so many near misses and fourth-place finishes in 4x400m finals dating back to the 2008 Olympics, Belgium finally won a medal in a global outdoor championships with bronze in the last track event of the championships.
The team might have been weakened on paper by the absence of Jonathan Borlee due to injury but the Belgian Tornadoes - led off by world U20 champion Jonathan Sacoor and anchored by the ever dependable Kevin Borlee in 44.2 - only just missed their national record of 2:58.52, winning bronze in 2:58.78 behind the United States (2:56.69) and Jamaica (2:57.90).
The Poles were expected to win bronze in the women’s 4x400m but the reigning European indoor and outdoor champions took more than two-and-a-half seconds off their national record of 3:24.49 to win silver in 3:21.89, defeating the Jamaicans (3:22.37) and finishing behind the United States (3:18.92).
Eleven years after making his senior debut at the Olympic Games in Beijing, Poland’s Marcin Lewandowski won his first global outdoor medal of his career at the age of 32 in the 1500m final.
While Kenya’s Timothy Cheruiyot took a near-unopposed win courtesy of some fearless front running in 3:29.36, Lewandowski used all of his guile and experience to put himself into a good position on the last lap before striking out of the melee for the bronze medal to accompany his countless accolades at European level over the last decade.
Cheruiyot was away and clear for the title and while Lewandowski couldn’t quite overhaul former Olympic champion Taoufik Makhloufi from Algeria who returned to form to win the silver medal in 3:31.38, Lewandowski finished well to ensure bronze in a national record of 3:31.46.
"This is the most important medal in my career. I was waiting for this for so long. This is my sixth World Championships final. I finished fourth three times and sixth twice," said Lewandowski. "I finally got it with a national record. It's even more important than gold in previous races."
After finishing fifth in the 5000m, double European champion Jakob Ingebrigtsen - the youngest finalist in the line-up - improved to fourth in the 1500m in 3:31.70. Brit Jake Wightman was fifth in a Scottish record of 3:31.87 while Kalle Berglund improved his Swedish record to 3:33.70 in ninth.
Steven Mills for European Athletics