Nelson Evora became Olympic champion of the triple jump Thursday, offering Portugal its first gold medal in 12 years. It is also the country's first gold in an event other than the marathon or 10,000m.
Nelson Evora added the Olympic title to his world crown when he won the men's triple jump here on Thursday, handing Portugal its first Olympic gold medal in 12 years.
Evora, who became a Portuguese citizen in 2002 after previously competing for the Cape Verde Islands, waited until his fourth jump to take the lead, hop, skip and jumping out to 17.67 metres.
In a nail-biting competition during which the lead and potential podium places chopped and changed in front of a vociferous, hand-clapping crowd, Britain's much-fancied Phillips Idowu claimed silver with a best of 17.62m.
Leevan Sanders of the Bahamas took bronze with 17.59m, while Athens silver medallist Marian Oprea of Romania, who is also the reigning European champion, finished fifth with a best of 17.22m behind Cuba's Arnie Girat (17.52m).
In the absence of defending champion Christian Olsson of Sweden, who was forced to skip the Beijing Games through injury, the event had boiled down to a battle of wills between Idowu and Evora, who won last year's world championships in Osaka.
Idowu led after the first round, but the Portuguese regained the lead with his second jump.
The Briton jumped his best on his third attempt, Sanders then registered what would eventually win him bronze, but Evora no-jumped.
Idowu, however, was not able to better his third jump and Evora responded with his best in the fourth round to claim Portugal's first Olympic gold medal since Fernanda Ribeiro won the women's 10,000m at the 1996 Atlanta Games.
"I would have liked to go to the London 2012 Olympic Games as defending Olympic champion, and I can't believe I'm standing here disappointed with silver, but I am," said Idowu.
"I can't complain about the silver but I'm a winner and I had been undefeated coming into this. This is the one I didn't want to lose.
"I had to work to get back into the lead two or three times. It was a tough competition," said the 29-year-old who hails from the east end of London.
Olsson's withdrawal from the Games had left the triple jump without a clear leader.
Former world champion Walter Davis of the United States failed to qualify for Beijing, and Evora arrived here with a season's best of only 17.24m, which ranked him at 17th position in the world lists.
Date created : 2008-08-21