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28 Sep 2000
Sydney 2000

Extrovert Taurima leaps to long jump silver

Known fondly as “Jumping Jai”, Australian long-jumper Jai Taurima didn't look like he had much chance of winning the Olympic title. For one thing, he was up against a high-quality field, led by the brilliant Cuban Iván Pedroso, whose best jumps put him well out of Taurima's reach. On top of that, Taurima didn't seem to live the disciplined life of a top athlete. While some long jumpers followed an almost monastic lifestyle, Taurima liked to enjoy himself.

That was reflected in a personal best of 8.35m – which was certainly very good, but nowhere near the distances being achieved by the likes of Pedroso.
The Australian crowd loved him, though. Taurima was half-Maori, extrovert and blessed with a first name that had been taken from a Tarzan film. He seemed to embody much of the Australian character and the home fans were almost instantly besotted.

Taurima took an early lead in the competition in the second round after jumping 8.18m, but Pedroso responded with a leap of 8.34m. Taurima then produced his own riposte in the next round, matching Pedroso's distance, and moving into the lead on the basis of his longer second best jump. Suddenly, the contest was alive.

The fourth round saw both men go longer still, Pedroso reaching 8.41m, while Taurima was a centimetre behind having leapt 8.40m – the longest jump of his life. And with his next effort the Australian did something exceptional, soaring 8.49m to extend his personal best and take the lead in the Olympic final with just one round to go.

The crowd went wild. Few had expected the home athlete to be in the mix for a medal, let alone gold, and yet the atmosphere and passion of the occasion had clearly given him inspiration.

Pedroso had one jump left. Taurima later said that he fully expected the great Cuban to rise to the occasion, and he duly did, jumping a mighty 8.55m to reclaim the lead. Taurima had one final chance, but could manage only 8.28m and had to be content with silver, but his heroics established him firmly as one of the stars of Sydney.

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