Football is king at the University of Florida, but perhaps triple jumping will find a place in Gator fans' hearts after a pair of Florida competitors won World Championship medals Sunday. Christian Taylor, the 2011 NCAA champion, leaped a personal best 17.96 meters (58 feet, 11 inches) in the fourth round to earn the gold medal at age 21. Taylor topped defending champion Phillips Idowu, who boasted a tremendous series of six jumps, none shorter than 17.38/57-¼. Idowu led from the start and peaked at 17.77/58-3½ in the fourth round but had to settle for silver. Will Claye, just 20 and the NCAA runner-up to his Florida teammate this year, was one jump away from elimination after fouling twice, then came through with a personal best 17.50/57-5 in the third round to not only survive, but to take the bronze medal.
Photo: Christian Taylor leaps to victory in the World Championship triple jump final Sunday. Stu Forster/Getty Images
Russia's Mariya Savinova ran both a tactical and fast race Sunday to win the 800 meters. With Kenya's Janeth Jepkosgei Busienei setting a fast pace, Savinova sat back in sixth after one lap. Defending champion Caster Semenya then made her move, with Savinova shadowing the South African all the way. Semenya took the lead going into the last turn and maintained it entering the final straight, but Savinova had more gas left in the tank and flew by Semenya over the final meters to win in a personal best 1:55.87. Semenya took the silver in a season-best 1:56.35, and Jepkosgei held on for the bronze in a season-best 1:57.42.
Bernard Lagat employed similar tactics in the 5000 meters, but not as successfully. He shadowed Mo Farah throughout the slow-paced race, but Lagat got caught up in some traffic around the final turn and let Farah gain too much of a lead. After Lagat escaped he gained ground on Farah but couldn't catch him. Farah, who earned a silver in the 10,000, gained the 5000-meter gold in 13:23.36, with Lagat second in 13:23.64. Imane Merga crossed the line third but was disqualified for stepping inside the curb, leaving the bronze to fellow Ethiopian Dejen Gebremeskel (13:23.92).
Tatyana Lysenko took the lead in the first round and never let go to win the hammer throw. The Russian had the event's three farthest throws, topping out at 77.13/253-0 in the third round. China's Zhang Wenxiu was second after one round with a throw measuring 75.03/246-2. She held her spot until round five, when world record-holder Betty Heidler threw 76.06/249-6 to grab the silver, leaving Zhang with the bronze.
As usual, the Championships closed with relays, in this case the 4 x 100 meters. Both were expected to be U.S. vs. Jamaica duels and both were, until the final leg of the men's race, when American Darvis Patton collided with British anchor Harry Aikines-Aryeetey. As Patton entered the exchange zone to hand off to Walter Dix, the Britain - to Patton's left - began his run in preparation for receiving the baton. Aikines-Aryeetey's arm struck Patton in the shoulder, knocking the American down and eliminating both teams from competition.
The collision almost certainly cost the U.S. a silver medal. Dix would've received the baton at almost the same time as Jamaica's anchor. But that anchor was Usain Bolt, and nobody was going to catch him. Even without the U.S. challenge, Bolt tore through his 100 meters to lead Jamaica to a world record time of 37.04 seconds. Nesta Carter, Michael Frater and Yohan Blake preceded Bolt, with the slightly less-heralded U.S. trio of Trell Kimmons, Justin Gatlin and Patton giving the Jamaicans a strong fight through 300 meters. France was well behind Jamaica to gain the silver (38.20) with Saint Kitts and Nevis taking the bronze (38.49).
Jamaica, as expected, dominated the World Championship sprints, but the U.S. did win bragging rights in the women's relay, winning in 41.56, even though Jamaica ran a national record 41.70. The first two Americans, Bianca Knight and Allyson Felix, were slightly ahead of the lead-off Jamaicans, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Kerron Stewart. The third leg proved decisive, however. After a crisp exchange, Marshevet Myers extended the lead, running against Jamaica's Sherone Simpson. Carmelita Jeter, the 100-meter gold medalist, then took the baton with about a two-stride lead on 200-meter champ Veronica Campbell-Brown. Jeter maintained her edge and secured the U.S. triumph. Ukraine gained the bronze medal in 42.51.
Check out the 2011 World Outdoor Championships main page for results, previews and schedule information for the Daegu games.