BIRMINGHAM, England (Reuters) - Venezuela’s Yulimar Rojas showed why she is the world’s best triple jumper to retain her world indoor title on Saturday just when it looked like she might come up short.
The 22-year-old was the clear favorite but soon found herself in a desperate scrap with Jamaican Kimberly Williams, the 2014 bronze medalist who produced the performance of her life to lead going into the fifth round.
When the pair last met, at the 2017 outdoor world championships in London, almost one meter separated their jumps, with Williams bemoaning that while others had turned up with their ‘A’ game, she had “brought my Z game”.
This time it was different, with Williams recording two personal bests in putting down a 14.48 marker.
At times, Madrid-based Rojas struggled for rhythm in her first outing of the season, failing to get the required trajectory on the hop to launch herself forward.
But, ultimately, normal service was resumed as she dug deep on her fifth attempt to reach a world leading 14.63, a jump preceded by an audible yelp both to herself and a crowd she was desperately seeking to engage.
It proved a leap too far for Williams, 29, who qualified as an adopted local favorite after training in Birmingham under the wing of former British triple jumper Aston Moore.
Third place went to Spain’s Ana Peleteiro, who also recorded a personal best of 14.40.
Fourth-placed Romanian Andreea Panturoiu also jumped further than ever before but it was hard to escape the view that this was an ordinary field elevated by a genuine talent in Rojas.
When she won her outdoor world championship gold in London - Venezuela’s first ever title - she spoke emotionally about the civil unrest that gripped her country and, after her latest triumph, she again referenced her victory in a wider context.
“This is a great achievement for Venezuela and for our nation,” she said. “I hope I brought a bit of joy to them and they enjoyed watching it. I trained so hard for this.
“It was a difficult competition and it has given me great inspiration for the summer.”
Williams was equally delighted with her best championship performance. “My heart is going crazy and I’m trying to calm down but it’s exciting,” she said.
Reporting by Neil Robinson; editing by Ken Ferris