Incredible Edwards' show

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The Independent Online
Jonathan Edwards was one of the first to congratulate Linford Christie as he came off the track, writes Mike Rowbottom. "Awesome, Linford," he said. "No," said the team captain. "You are awesome."

The 29-year-old Gateshead Harrier yesterday produced at the European Cup in Lille the finest triple-jumping performance the world has seen. Twice he jumped further than anyone before, only to see both efforts ruled out for record purposes by a cruelly capricious wind.

His longest jump, 18.43 metres, was 23 centimetres further than the wind- assisted best of 18.20m that Willie Banks set in 1988, and would have obliterated Banks' legal world record of 17.97m. Edwards was smiling before he hit the sand. There was mingled joy and disbelief on his face until a glance at the digital wind recording - at 2.4 metres per second, a mere breath above the legal maximum of 2mps - put frustration in its place. When the staggering distance came up - 18.43m, which is 60ft 53/4in - Edwards put his head in his hands and then, overcome, sat with his shirt up over his face.

He had already seen his opening jump of 17.90 invalidated by a wind reading of 2.5. And when the next competitor jumped the wind had dropped, teasingly, to a legal 1.5.

Edwards' third jump, accompanied by a 0.5 reading, improved the British record of 17.58 he set two weeks ago to 17.72. His reaction was a study in mixed emotion.

Incredibly in the circumstances, he raised his level of performance again with a last effort of 18.39m. This time the wind had risen, mockingly it almost seemed, to 3.7mps. It was time to finish for the day. "I was very disappointed," he said. "I think my 18.43 was worth between 18.20 and 18.30 legal. It was certainly worth more than 17.97."

The man who used not to compete on Sundays because of his religious beliefs is now finding the seventh day a happy hunting ground. He has set British records on two of the last three Sundays.

Edwards has always had great speed - he has covered 60m in 6.77sec and reckons he is quicker now - but in the past he has been unable to control it. This season, in conjunction with a new technical coach, Peter Stanley, he has made several modifications. "In my last phase I am jumping further than before," he said. "I am using my arms actively rather than in reaction to what my legs are doing."

And yet this progression has come after a time when Edwards' spirits had been lowered by viral illness - the same Epstein-Barr syndrome which put Roger Black out of action for a year. "In March I was really down," he said. "I had the spectre of post-viral syndrome hanging over me and all I wanted to do was re-establish myself this season."

He might be said to have done that much now. Awesome was the word for it.

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