Just as Usain Bolt was crossing the finish line in the Olympiastadion last night, Phillips Idowu was getting ready to roll down the triple jump runway. The fastest man on the planet was completing the formality of a second round 200 metres heat win. The north Londoner was about to take what was for him as significant a step as the Jamaican sprinter had made in the 100m final on Sunday evening. In literal terms, it was a hop, a step and a jump but it added up to one quantum leap and a World Championship gold medal for the nearly man of British track and field.
Twelve months ago Idowu travelled to the Beijing Olympics as the red-hot favourite for the triple jump, sitting on top of the world rankings with an unbeaten summer record. "I feel like Superman," he proclaimed – before crashing to earth with a bump. The silver medal was no consolation for the crushing defeat that was inflicted by Nelson Evora.
The margin in the Chinese capital was a mere five centimetres and as Idowu charged down the runway for his third-round effort in the World Championship final last night he was in second place trailing his Portuguese rival by 3cm. It was then that the 30-year-old Hackney man proceeded to cross the Rubicon.
It was in Sydney in 2000 that the 6ft 4in Idowu, a basketball player in his youth, first stood out as a potential world-beating triple jumper, finishing sixth in an Olympic final won by his world-record-holding British team-mate Jonathan Edwards. That promise was finally fulfilled here last night as Idowu ventured out to a distance of 17.73m. Evora – crowned Portugal's sports star of the year in 2008, ahead of one Cristiano Ronaldo – could not respond with a jump to trump it. He managed 17.55m in the final round but it was not enough.
Idowu was standing proud as the world champion. It was the second gold for the British team in Berlin and the first won by a male British athlete in the outdoor World Championships since Edwards secured the second of his crowns in Edmonton in 2001.
For the Great Britain squad, disappointment followed in the Olympiastadion last night, with Christine Ohuruogu relinquishing her 400m title and finishing out of the medals in fifth place. For Idowu, though, there was nothing but unbridled joy.
"I just broke down in tears," he said, after dropping down on one knee and taking a lap of honour draped in a Union flag. "I said a little prayer, saying my thanks to God for putting me on top.
"I feel like the king of the world. It's really emotional. It's been a long time coming. I've worked hard for this. I knew I had a big jump in me. I'm just grateful that it came out at the right time. God was looking down on me.
"Once it was 2009, what happened in Beijing was done. I had to be cool. I couldn't sit down and dwell on negativity. I barely think about it. I still have a dream of being Olympic champion but it's a long way away."
Having been some way short of the take-off limit when he launched his winning effort, there would appear to be more to come from Idowu – quite possibly on home ground in 2012. The 17.73m was his best jump outdoors, eclipsing the 17.68m that was not quite good enough to stop Edwards – who also maintained he jumped with God on his side, and who will present the medals tonight – from snatching Commonwealth gold in Manchester in 2002. In winning his world indoor title in Valencia last year, he jumped 17.75m. He will be 33 when the Olympics come to his home town. Edwards was 34 when he won in Sydney.
At 25, Ohuruogu already has an Olympic gold medal. She bagged it in Beijing when she was at the top of her quarter-miling game 12 months ago. It had been clear for some time that she would not be anywhere close to her best for the defence of the world title she won in the heat and humidity of Osaka two years ago. She arrived in Berlin outside the top 20 in the world rankings following a build-up undermined by a hamstring problem.
On a night soured by news of the first positive drugs test of the championship – registered by Moroccan steeplechaser Jamel Chatbi – American Sanya Richards sped to victory in 49.00sec, with Ohuruogu fifth in 50.21sec. "I think it was just a lack of race fitness," Ohuruogu lamented. "At least I came over and did my best." So did Phillips Idowu, the new king of the triple jump world.Reuse content