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Haile Gebrselassie defeats Paul Tergat at the 2000 Olympics

Top 10 contests from the Sydney Olympics

#3 – Men’s Long Jump

This was an epic contest between Cuba’s Ivan Pedroso and Australia’s Jai Taurima in front of a 110,000 parochial home crowd.

Cubans might be famous for their cigars, but it was the ciggies that pack a day smoker Taurima favoured. He ended up being one jump from becoming Olympic champion.

In the qualifying round only two men achieved the automatic mark of 8.15m Pedroso (8.32m) and compatriot Luis Meliz (8.21m). Taurima and Australian team mate Peter Burge were fourth and fifth in qualifying respectively, with marks of 8.09m and 8.06m.

Pedroso was the hot favourite, with the three previous world titles all in his collection. Except for the 1996 Olympics, where he was injured and finished twelfth, he had proven his championship pedigree with world title winning leaps of 8.71m (1995), 8.42m (1997) and 8.56m (1999).

Taurima and Burge were evenly matched, with the later having taken out the Australian selection trial 8.09m to 8.06m. Burge was the reigning Commonwealth Games champion from Kaula Lumpur, where Taurima finished second, but Taurima had finished fourth at the 1999 world championships. Taurima also held the Australian record at 8.35m from 1999, against Burge’s personal best of 8.30m set during the Australian domestic season in 2000.

The opening round was unspectacular, with fouls to both Taurima and Pedroso and only two jumps over eight metres from the entrie field. But boy, were things going to heat up.

In round two Pedroso leapt out to 8.34m to assume the lead from Taurima who had recorded an 8.18m jump. Burge improved to 8.06m to be in fourth.

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Pedroso fouled round three, with Taurima equaling his 8.34m mark and being ahead on a countback. Burge slipped out the to equal seventh as a series of competitors jumped between 8.06m and 8.19m, the distance set by Germany’s Kofi Amoah Prah to move into the bronze medal position.

Jumping ahead of Jai in the order, in round four Pedroso hit the lead with an 8.41m leap. Taurima responded, but just short, with a new personal best and Australian record of 8.40m. Third position changed again, with Ukraine’s Olexiy Lukashevych leaping 8.22m.

A foul from Pedroso in round five left the opportunity for Taurmia to gain the ascendency, and he did, bettering the national record again with an 8.49m jump. Lukashevych improved his third place mark with an 8.26m leap, while Burge leapt 8.15m to move into fifth.

It all came down to the final round.

Firstly, Ukranian Roman Shchurenko, who had been in sixth place with an 8.14m leap, knocked his compartriot Lukashevych out of the medals. When it came his turn to respond, Lukashevych fouled.

In his final jump of the competition Pedroso cemented his reputation as a big time performer, with a fast and controlled run up before launching himself out to 8.55m. Taurima tried to respond on the last jump of the competition, with a highly credible 8.28m jump not enough to improve his position. Burge finished in sixth.

Next -> #2 – Men’s 1500m
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