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BEIJING (Reuters) - American Christian Taylor produced the second-longest triple jump in history as he soared 18.21 meters to take gold in a high-quality world championship competition on Thursday.
In a week of outstanding head-to-heads in the Bird's Nest Stadium, the men's triple jump final always promised to be among the best and it did not disappoint. Taylor and Cuba's Pedro Pichardo came to Beijing having between them produced the 10 best marks of 2015, with the Cuban leading the way with 18.08m.
Taylor delivered the coup de grace with his sixth and final jump, landing just short of the 18.29m world record that has stood to Britain's Jonathan Edwards since the 1995 world championships.
Edwards, who was watching the contest at the stadium, later tweeted to Taylor: "You gave me a scare my friend!! Brilliant performance."
Jumping last, Pichardo too had his best jump in the sixth round but his silver medal-winning 17.73 seemed modest compared with what the packed stadium had just witnessed.
The bronze medal was also won by a last-round jump as Nelson Evora, of Portugal, the Olympic gold medalist in the Bird's Nest Stadium seven years ago, cleared 17.52 to snatch third place from Omar Craddock, the American who had moved into medal positions with a 17.37 effort in the penultimate round.
The event had been competitive from the beginning. Taylor took the outright lead for the first time with his fourth-round jump before achieving a U.S. national record with his final leap.
Taylor, 25, from North Carolina, who had previously won the world title in 2011, said: "It was a great fight.
"When you're that close to a record, it just makes you even hungrier for the next time you compete.
"This is all just gearing up to Rio."
Pichardo, 23, the world number one going into the final, was desperately disappointed. "I feel so upset and disappointed," he told reporters. "I did not feel 100 percent OK and I could not get into my speed.
"I really expected longer jumps and even attacking record marks. I thought I was going to get it together, but I was just not fast enough."
For Evora, it was a third world-championships medal, following a silver in 2009 and winning gold in 2007. "I couldn't be happier with a bronze medal," the Portuguese said. "I've had a tough year. My heart made the difference today."
Reporting by Steven Downes, editing by Mitch Phillips and Neville Dalton