Look, let’s make this clear. Neither Stuart nor I are fans of the jump off do hickey has been de rigeur in 2020-2021. So, now that that is clear, enjoy Stuart’s story on the Sept 7 events in Zurich by the Lakeside, which was, in any language, spectacular!
This is Stuart Weir’s 4th piece on the first day of the Zurich Diamond League Final.
Women’s long jump
The women’s long jump Olympic final was one of my favourite Tokyo events, with the lead changing hands (or feet) twice in the last two rounds before Malaika Mihambo produced the only 7 m leap to take gold from Brittney Reese and Ese Brume. It was a slightly different cast in Zurich but was no less excitement.
The format in Zurich was complicated and difficult to understand. There were six jumpers who each had six jumps and the one who jumped furthest was the winner. (I know that most of you expect jumpers to have five jumps and then forget everything that has happened and have a jump off between the top three, with the winner not necessarily having the biggest jump of the evening!) Hooray for common sense and a competition that is fair and equitable and frankly no less exciting than the jump-off nonsense. I am not sure if I mentioned it but I’m not a great fan of jump-offs!
Khaddi Sagnia (Sweden) set the scene with 6.83 in the first round, followed by a 6.82 to show that she meant business! The surprise of the evening was that Olympic champion, Malaika Mihambo, never got going with the series of 6.10, 6.50, 6.56, 6.23 and 6.55 plus a foul. Sagnia held the lead into the final round when Serbia’s, Ivana Spanovic, jumped 6.96 to win. Spanovic had previously had three jumps beyond 6.80 to win her third Diamond League trophy.
Ivana told me: “I knew it would not be easy so I prepared myself mentally to give the best performance I was capable of. It is never easy to produce the big jump to win but it’s easier when you are competing with competitors on the same level as we push each other. Zurich is always one of my favourite cities to compete in and the city event was special”.
She added, referring to the challenge of training in the pandemic, “I approached the competition with caution. Even if this meant that I had to catch the leader in my sixth attempt. I am happy that I produced the 6.96m in the last attempt. I did not jump on this kind of surface for a year and it was difficult for me. Winning after 2020 and after this winter when I did not know if I could jump during such a long season and finish it in September. So finishing at this level is a good sign for next year. Now I just want to relax, enjoy my trophy and be happy that I am healthy”.
When I asked her about the World Indoors in her home country in 2022, she became very animated: “I am excited about the world indoors. Serbia is a sport country and we love track and field. It’s going to be great and I’m really looking forward to it”.
Britain’s Jazmin Sawyers had a similar experience to Sagnia having held third place with 6.74 for most of the evening before Maryna Bekh-Romanchuk – whose name is almost as long as her jump – found an extra centimeter to take third place with 6.75.
I spoke to Jazmin afterwards in the Opera House, where the mixed zone was located – very appropriate as she is an almost professional singer – asking for her assessment of her performance: “It was a good performance. Of course, I would have liked a little bit more and to be pipped by one centimeter in the last round is a bit disappointing. I love city events because it gives the crowd a chance to get up close and personal. People have said to me, ‘I didn’t realise you were jumping so far’ – because it looks quite different when you are so close compared to being in a big stadium or watching on TV. And for athletes it means that we get to compete in gorgeous locations by famous landmarks. The run-up was perfect for me because as the shorter jumper I like the run up which is not so bouncy. I prefer the harder less bouncy track”.