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Monday, 29 July, 2002, 06:12 GMT 07:12 UK

Jonathan's joy

By Tom Fordyce
BBC Sport Online in Manchester

It was the classic confrontation. In one corner, the old, grey-haired champion, straight-laced, serious.

In the other, the extrovert youngster, crazy hair, facial piercing, hunting his first major medal.

You could not get two athletes more different than Jonathan Edwards and Phillips Idowu.

When Edwards is studying his Bible, Idowu is down the barbers bleaching his hair and dying it several different colours.

Between them, they conjured up the greatest triple jump competition ever seen in this country.

Edwards does not like getting beaten, especially when the entire country is watching and the man on his tail is a cocky young upstart 12 years his junior.

So when Idowu powered down the runway at the City of Manchester Stadium and hopped, stepped and jumped out to a massive 17.68 metres, Edwards was hurting.

His own first effort had been a stinker, barely breaking 16 metres. That's the sort of distance he can jump eating his breakfast.

His second was worse. It didn't even register. Idowu was cock-a-hoop.

After his prodigious leap - the longest jump by anyone bar Edwards in the world this year - he had ripped his vest off and bounded past the crowd, waggling his finger and nodding his head.

His special Commonwealth hair-do (England white with red spots) was clearly working.

What could Edwards, whose own hair has long been as grey as the average Manchester sky, produce in reply?

Had the balance of power shifted? Had it hell.

Edwards, who had been pacing around the warm-up area like a caged silver fox, stepped onto the runway, leant back, glided down the track and soared. And soared. And soared.

He said later that he thought he was going to break his own world record.

In the event, as the crowd simultaneously gasped and roared in astonishment, the scoreboard flashed up 17.86m - a new Commonwealth Games record and by far the biggest jump in the world this year.

"I was very, very nervous before tonight"
Jonathan Edwards

And didn't Edwards know it. He wanted this title. He already had Olympic, World and European gold medals.

With this triumph he now has the full set, the holy Grand Slam of British athletics that only Daley Thompson, Linford Christie and Sally Gunnell have achieved before.

Not for tonight a restrained wave to the crowd. Edwards took off on a bounding celebratory run that put David Pleat's infamous jig at nearby Maine Road all those years ago to shame.

His lap of honour was the slowest ever witnessed. Almost every person in the 38,000-strong crowd must have got his autograph.

Idowu too was beaming, English flag hanging off his massive shoulders as he acted as an outrider for the old boy.

He had jumped a massive personal best and merely underlined that when Edwards calls time on his glorious career (and the smart money says that means this September) he is ready to take on his crown.

And Edwards? Happy as a teenager who has just won his first schools title.

"It's incredible," he said afterwards. "I was very, very nervous before tonight. The newspapers had said I was a shoo-in for gold, and I was worried I'd look back think that the big one had got away.

"When Phillips jumped 17.68m I was stunned. It was sheer competitive response that got me through. I can't tell you how I feel."


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