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.”

Source: Steve Smythe