Gold seals Idowu's leap into the elite

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The Independent Online

Phillips Idowu, whose performances have not always matched his talents, took Britain's final medal tally here at the 12th World Indoor Championships to five, topping four silvers with a triple jump gold that lifted his country to fourth in the overall table and offered serious encouragement to his Olympic ambitions.

This competition was effectively over from the moment Idowu landed in the sand on his second attempt to register a British indoor record of 17.75 metres that puts him fifth on the all-time list, five places above his former rival and team-mate Jonathan Edwards – previous national record holder with 17.64 – who had the pleasure of presenting him with his medal.

"I've been very pleased, although there's been a few disappointments," said UK Athletics Performance Director, Dave Collins. "I'm very satisfied to have come away with one gold and four silvers, which is around what I thought we'd get, although no pressure was put on the athletes. They were left to set their own targets and I'm sure many will be happy at attaining what they set out to do.

"The younger members who we brought out here for experience have learnt from the trip. Some will have been satisfied with how they performed. Others must realise that in future they must raise their game."

Idowu may once have belonged to the latter category, but he is in a very different place now. He knew as soon as he had touched down for a second time that it was a decisive effort – after the hop, step and jump the discipline gained a fourth element, the high-stepping celebration. In the last couple of years this 29-year-old Londoner has begun to earn the rewards – Commonwealth gold in 2006, European indoor gold last March – that his potential always appeared to merit, and he has done so with big single jumps.

Yesterday, however, he supplemented his first demoralising blow – Cuba's Arnie David Giralt had taken a first round lead with a personal best of 17.43m and improved to 17.47 to take silver – with a hugely impressive sequence of distances.

After consulting with his coach John Herbert high up in the Luis Puig velodrome, Idowu maintained competitive pressure with two other huge efforts – 17.56, which equalled his previous personal best, and 17.45. Although he left the pit with a grimace of discomfort after fouling on his sixth and final attempt, the flamboyant Briton had reason for massive satisfaction.

For all his ability, Idowu has yet to break through in a major outdoor competition – having finished sixth at the 2000 Olympics, he could only manage 12th place four years later and slipped to sixth in last year's World Championships.

But Idowu has already demonstrated his capacity to beat anyone in the world – at last year's Oslo Golden League meeting he defeated a field which included the Olympic champion, Christian Olsson, who is currently struggling with injury, and Brazil's Jadel Gregorio, who took silver in the Osaka World Championships.

Yesterday the man who took that world title in Japan, Portugal's Nelson Evora, could do no better than bronze with 17.27m. Idowu is now very much a big league player.

To describe the Londoner as a colourful character is literally accurate. Over the years his hair has been dyed in a variety of hues, including blue and gold. Here it was crimson, swathed in his now habitual sweatband, and as he emerged from the pit he displayed, as is his wont, the stud he has had put in his tongue.

There have been mutterings in the past that there has been too much show and not enough to show – but not any more.

Earlier in the day Mo Farah finished sixth in a 3000 metres final won by Ethiopia's Tariku Bekele, Kenenisa's younger brother. Jenny Meadows finished fifth in a bumpy and tactical 800 metres that saw Australia's Tamsyn Lewis earn a surprise gold to thwart the attempt by Mozambique's former Olympic champion, Maria Mutola, to win a record eighth title.