Remembering Sydney: Edwards finally lands Olympic triple jump gold
Athletics

Remembering Sydney: Edwards finally lands Olympic triple jump gold

25 September 2016 / 09:00

It’s 16 years since the Sydney Olympic Games, when Team GB returned from Australia with 11 golds, 10 silvers and seven bronze medals, which back then was our most successful Games since 1920. It was the first Games that Team GB athletes had benefitted from National Lottery funding, following its introduction in 1997.

For many reasons Jonathan Edwards was able to hold his head up high after winning triple jump silver at Atlanta 1996 – after all his best of 17.88m was the longest effort ever to not win gold.

However, after travelling across the pond as the world record holder and favourite, seeing American Kenny Harrison climb the top step of the podium with a jump of 18.09m, left its mark.

But it was an experience he used to his advantage four years later Down Under, as he improved to gold at Sydney 2000.

Once again Edwards arrived at the Games as the world record holder. However, this time he was also the oldest athlete in the event.

But at 34 Edwards proved that age is indeed nothing but a number as his third effort saw him record 17.71m and finally become an Olympic gold medallist, in Sydney.

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The two other British jumpers Larry Achike and Phillips Idowu finished fifth and sixth respectively, but there was no doubting who the star of the show was – and the man of the moment was relieved to banish his demons from four years earlier.

"I look upon the Olympic gold as one of the final pieces in a jigsaw puzzle rather than reaching the summit of something," he said back in 2001.

"In one way, winning the Olympics is just a rubber stamp on the quality of my career. It would always have been, 'He was a world-class athlete, even though . . .' Now it is, 'He was a world-class athlete, and he did it.'

"I think for a period of time I would have been devastated at not winning, but it's not the be-all and end-all.

“It's wonderful to have won an Olympic gold medal, but the gold medal has not profoundly affected me - the Olympics were never going to define me. All that will happen is I will die richer and more famous."

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That Olympic title saw Edwards appointed a CBE, while at the time of his retirement in 2003 he stepped away as Britain’s most successful medal-winning athlete.

But he has continued to have an impact on the sport as a commentator, and he of course is still the world record holder in triple jumper.

That leap of 18.29m came back in 1995 and for a long time was 20cm further than his nearest rival – few athletes have been so far ahead of their peers.

"In some ways nothing can compare to what happened to me in 1995,” Edwards added. “I mean, in 14 competitions that year my average jump was further than my winning jump of 17.71m in Sydney.

“The time when I jumped 18.43m and 18.39m at the European Cup in Lille [both ruled out for record purposes because of an illegal wind] - I'll never have a day like that again.

“I almost redefined the event there, and it was a scary feeling."

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