Tamgho aims for big leap forward

Triple-jumper visits Al Jazeera to broadcast desire for Olympic treble as he returns to the scene of his world record.

    Tamgho has improved his own indoor world record and has his sights on Edwards' distant outdoor mark [GALLO/GETTY]

    Teddy Tamgho walks through the newsroom with his manager, surrounded by a phalanx of foreign journalists all pointing lenses at him as Al Jazeera staff squeeze past with slightly peeved looks on their faces.

    In the background, senior presenter Darren Jordon is introducing millions of viewers to a story broadcast from the house where Osama bin Laden was killed two days earlier in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

    But under the dim lights in 'the pit' of the Al Jazeera English studio, all eyes are on the tall 21-year-old with the entourage – although nobody knows who he is.

    "It's an exceptional mark. For me, if I jump over this record, I think I'm going to be the man to kill"

    Teddy Tamgho on Jonathan Edwards' world record

    Dressed in a red T-shirt, denim shorts, diamond earrings and big white basketball sneakers, Tamgho looks like a rapper, or a boxer about to enter the ring, as he bowls along on the balls of his feet, gently smacking a fist into his palm.

    Various points of interest are pointed out to him, in turn causing varying degrees of interest to spread politely over his youthful and open face.

    The pretender to Jonathan Edwards' crown as the greatest triple-jumper in history eventually completes his tour and goes outside for interviews with his hosts as the visiting journos clamber back aboard their bus.

    While I chat to his manager, Tamgho balances like a tightrope walker on a car park barrier in the background, as if his body had to find some athletic pursuit after being cooped inside for half an hour.

    The Frenchman is back in the city where he had one of his finest moments, having beaten the indoor world record by a giant 7cm at the World Indoor Championships in March last year.

    Extra millimetre

    A giant 7cm? That may be less than the length of the average mobile phone, but to a jumper that strains every sinew for an extra millimetre of sand, it's the Grand Canyon.

    "It was a moment that was very amazing for me," Tamgho tells me as we sit down in Al Jazeera's air-conditioned front lobby in Doha.

    "It was my last attempt and I was second behind the Cuban jumper (Yoandri Betanzos, who had just notched a personal best 17.69 metres), and my team told me I had to win.

    No jumper has come close to Edwards' record since he set 18.29 in Sweden 16 years ago [GALLO/GETTY]

    "I got up from the sand I looked at the mark and knew I had beaten the world record. And when I saw 17.90 (starts laughing), I ran across the track very fast, very fast. But I had to wait for the Cuban.

    "When I saw he didn't get over my mark it was a wonderful moment in my life."

    The native of the Paris suburb of Aulnay-sous-Bois has since added another 2cm to that indoor record and, in June 2010, claimed the third-longest jump in history at the outdoor Adidas Grand Prix in New York City, recording 17.98m.

    Friday sees the chance for greater strides as the second IAAF Diamond League begins in the Qatari capital.

    Jump forward 15 months and Tamgho could be gunning for a mouthwatering treble – Olympic gold, an Olympic record, and maybe even Edwards' almost unhuman 18.29m that the Englishman set at the World Championships in Gothenburg in 1995.

    "If I do that it's going to be perfect – a world record with an Olympic gold," says Tamgho of his London 2012 prospects.

    "But I think (current Olympic champion) Nelson Évora is going to be hard to beat. He jumped 17.74 in 2007 and he was Olympic champion in 2008 – and I think he wants to win another one."

    If Tamgho's current 9cm advantage on the indoor league table is big, the now-retired Edwards' 31cm lead over Tamgho in outdoor events compares to being lapped in a Formula One race.

    But given that Edwards was 29 in Gothenburg, Tamgho has plenty of time to claw back the gap, with Kenny Harrison's Olympic record of 18.09m a realistic first target.

    I asked Tamgho how he visualised that foot-long stretch of sand that still proved beyond his reach, and which stood between him and the history books.

    "The image is that of the biggest jump of a human's life," he says.

    "Until today, nobody has jumped further. It's so much more – nobody could beat his (Edwards') record.

    "It's an exceptional mark. I think I need more experience to jump close to it.

    "For me, if I jump over this record, I think I'm going to be the man to kill."

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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