Stuart Weir loves the women’s long jump. He has written about all three of the medalists and sees their careers and challenges are part of the rich tapestry that is the women’s long jump.
Women’s long jump
Regular readers will know that I love a good long-jump competition, and at the moment, women seem always to deliver.
The European Championship women’s long jump attracted over 30,000 spectators to the Olympic Stadium, Munich, for an evening that started with a major sense of anti-climax when there was an outbreak of what the Germans call “Unwetter”, literally “un-weather”. With the threat of lightning, spectators in the open sections were asked to leave their seats and go undercover for their own safety. Fortunately, after 30 minutes, the meteorologists were satisfied that it was OK to start the program.
A local favorite, Malaika Mihambo, reigning Olympic, World outdoor, and European champion opened with 6.71. Ivana Vuleta (Spanovic) showed that she meant business with an opening of 7.06, the distance with which she had won a home World Indoor earlier in the year in Belgrade. The contest already looked to be between the two. Could Mihambo match the Serbian’s jump? Mihambo recorded 7.03 in round two. Almost but not quite. Spanovic jumped 6.98 in round two before fouling three times. Mihambo jumped 6.86, 6.95, and a foul. We were down to the last round. Mihambo 6.99, allowing Spanovic victory without a final jump.
Malaika Mihambo is a class act. Her comments after the event showed that: “I am so relieved that I can be here and compete. And I was able to do such a good competition despite my covid infection one week ago. It turned out I was fit. At some attempts, I was a bit too far from the board. I definitely won a silver medal and did not lose the gold medal. The level of this competition was high, with Vuleta achieving 7.06m, she competed well. It was a really good competition, yet, a hard one. I had to fight. The crowd was on fire, I loved it. So many came here to celebrate athletics. It was beautiful to feel them behind me, I felt such much support. It was fun to jump here today. I am also happy for the other athletes, they were able to experience such an overwhelming atmosphere with their home crowd. I do not know if and how I will celebrate because I am still recovering. This medal means a lot to me, I come from a difficult week and maybe tonight I missed some luck. Thank you, Munich”.
Ivana Vuleta, the winner, said, “After the Eugene World Championships where I was chasing the medal [she was seventh with 6.84], I came here with a lot of focus. I wasn’t really bothered by my competitors. This was really fantastic, everybody was cheering for everybody, which I really enjoyed. This was one of the strongest and one of the most beautiful competitions in my career. I love the rain so the rain wasn’t a problem for me at all today. If I could have wished for the rain, it would be on this championship. The important thing was just not to get injured. It was a really beautiful competition; I enjoyed it with all the girls. This season I have won World indoors and now European outdoors; the only one missing was the medal from Eugene. One jump in Oregon would have been good enough for a medal, but it was a marginal foul”.
Vuleta also revealed that she plans to train for the triple jump in winter, believing she has a 15m leap in her capabilities.
The morning after the competition, I bumped into Jazmin Sawyers, who seemed the happiest athlete in town. She had taken bronze, her first championship medal since the Europeans in 2016, with 6.80. She had contested three championships in 2022. In Oregon, she has been ninth with 6.62. At the Commonwealths in Birmingham, fourth with 6.84. In Munich, it came right with 6.80 and third place. She said: “I’m so happy, there is no way to put it, I am so happy. I have many words. This season, I just proved to myself that for years and years, I had to believe that I was good enough to be on that podium. I’ve continuously not yet done it for myself, so I had to tell myself ‘do not leave here without a medal – you are good enough”.
Three great athletes, all satisfied for different reasons.