Good move, Lebedeva

BERLIN: Tatyana Lebedeva’s decision to withdraw from the triple jump final at the World Championships has paid off in a US$1mil windfall. 

Nursing an Achilles’ tendon injury at last month’s worlds in Helsinki, the Russian qualified for the final but decided not to risk aggravating the injury. 

Lebedeva would have been favourite for the title. But she already had won two of them before and making the injury worse could have robbed her of a chance to win a much bigger prize, at least financially. 

The plan paid off when she captured the US$1mil Golden League jackpot on Sunday by winning the triple jump competition at the final of the six-meet series. 

“I think I made a good decision to save my energy and not jump in the Helsinki final,” she said. “It was not easy, but I did it. Now I do not need to worry about my family, my daughter, our future.” 

The 29-year-old Russian was the only athlete still eligible to win the bonus. The jackpot goes to athletes who sweep their events at all six Golden League meets. The prize was open to 12 events this season. 

Lebedeva did it alone this year and became only the second athlete to claim the full lump sum, joining 800m runner Maria Mutola in 2003. 

A mother of a three-year-old daughter, Lebedeva said before the meet she would donate 10% of the prize to her old school in Volgograd. 

Lebedeva cleared only 13.95m in her first leap to begin the competition in fourth place. But her second effort of 14.85m put her into the lead for good. In the sixth and final series, Yamile Aldama of Sudan soared 14.82m to come close – but not enough to threaten Lebedeva’s sweep. 

“Today is the lucky day for me. The fortune is smiling. But it was not easy, in the third jump I injured slightly my right ankle,” Lebedeva said. “Therefore I did not jump in the fifth attempt and of course Aldama jumped very well in the last round. I’ve always been dreaming about the million, now it is reality.” 

In Lebedeva’s absence in Helsinki, the world title went to Trecia Smith of Jamaica. But Smith pulled out of the Berlin meet because of injury. 

Lebedeva, the Olympic long jump champion, and Smith have both jumped 15.11m this season, the best in the world. Lebedeva had won the previous Golden League meets in Paris, Rome, Oslo, Zurich and Brussels. – AP  

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