TOKYO: Germany’s Malaika Mihambo saved her best for last to snatch Olympic long jump gold, soaring to victory on her final leap to defeat USA veteran Brittney Reese in a nerve-jangling final.
World champion Mihambo was lying in the bronze medal position ahead of her final jump, but powered down the runway to register a season-best jump of 7.00m.
That left 2012 Olympic champion Reese – who had led the competition with a best jump of 6.97m – with one final attempt to reclaim the lead.
But the American could only manage 6.84 with her last leap to settle for silver. Nigeria’s Ese Brume (6.97m) took the bronze medal.
Mihambo, who finished just outside the medal places at the 2016 Rio Olympics, said she had been determined not to end up frustrated once more as she prepared for her final jump, needing to improve on her own 6.95m to overhaul Reese’s 6.97m.
“I knew this was my last chance and that I had to do it, and that I want to do it,” she said.
“And I knew I had more in me than 6.95.
“So I believed in myself, I knew I had this inner-strength. I was feeling calm. I knew that I could make it.”
Mihambo admitted she could barely watch as Reese attempted to wrest back the gold medal with the final jump of the competition.
“It was hard to watch,” Mihambo said. “I tried to have a sneak peek on the display to see how far it was.
“I really don’t like this position where you cannot do anything about it and you have to watch the girls do what they have to do.
“It was a horrible moment – but at least it was short.”
Mihambo’s victory denied Reese what would have been a golden end to her Olympic career.
The 34-year-old four-time world champion – who is renowned for winning major championships on her final jump – admitted there was an irony in her defeat.
“I am used to beating people in the sixth jump, and I got beaten in the sixth jump today, so that is funny,” said Reese, confirming she plans to retire from the sport.
“I think now I feel is time for me to step away, and spend more time with my son, who is starting sports,” she said.
“It is time to move on.” — AFP