BEIJING – The highlights of the women’s long jump were being replayed on the TV screens in the media mixed zone, and Canada’s Christabel Nettey paused briefly to watch, chin on hands.
The 24-year-old from Surrey, B.C., had just finished fourth, missing the medal podium by six centimetres in her first world championship final.
And while she’s had a spectacular season that included a pair of Canadian records, and an improvement of a whopping 26 centimetres, that was of little consolation at the Bird’s Nest stadium Friday night.
“I was feeling really confident, and the fact that I couldn’t respond and move with the girls is kind of disappointing. And fourth place is really hard,” she said.
Nettey, who won last month’s Pan American Games, soared 6.95 metres on her first of six jumps, and known for coming up big late in the competition, appeared poised for the podium and a big mark.
But that first jump would stand up as her best of the night.
American Tianna Bartoletta, who had won the world title 10 years earlier as a 19-year-old, claimed the gold with a huge leap of 7.14 metres on her final attempt. Great Britain’s Shara Proctor leapt 7.07 to win silver, while Serbia’s Ivana Spanovic jumped 7.01 for bronze.
Canada had never had a finalist in the event at the world championships. But when Nettey, who did both long jump and hurdles in college at Arizona State University, flew to a national record 6.99 metres in May, she launched herself into the spotlight with the best jump in the world at the time. It was a massive improvement over last season that saw her win bronze at the Commonwealth Games.
Nettey didn’t make the final at the worlds two years ago in Moscow.
“That’s a positive,” she said of the improvement. “But at the same time, my goals were bigger than fourth place.”
Nettey, who competed in a rhinestone headband befitting her Twitter handle – @queenchristabel – has been one of the world’s most consistent jumpers all season, and arrived in Beijing ranked No. 2 in the world.
But by the third round Friday night, it was clear she would need to be at her absolute best. Her legendary coach Dan Pfaff – who’s coached more than 50 Olympians, including star sprinter Donovan Bailey – told her it could take a leap of seven metres to get onto the podium.
“I try not to really think about ‘seven,’ and this is the first time we’ve talked about seven because it’s always been a buzz about seven, but it’s always been from the outside, we never really talk about it,” she said of the milestone.
“I try not to focus on the numbers, and chase the numbers. Its going to happen when it happens.”
Damian Warner, meanwhile, is on pace for a medal and a Canadian-record performance in the decathlon. The 25-year-old from London, Ont., sat second after Day 1 behind Olympic champion and world record-holder Ashton Eaton of the U.S.
Warner’s score of 4,530 is well ahead of where he was after Day 1 at the Pan Am Games, where he broke Mike Smith’s 19-year-old national record.
Eaton, who capped the night with a blistering time of 45 seconds flat in the 400 – the fastest in history in the decathlon – leads with 4,703. Germany’s Rico Freimuth is third with 4,406.
“There’s no complaints after the first day,” said Warner, a world bronze medallist in 2013. “I’m 70 points ahead of where I was in Toronto, and I got the Canadian record there, so beggars can’t be choosers.”
“I’m happy with the first day, there’s some events I would have liked to go better, the 400 being one of them. But I’m in a great spot going into tomorrow, and I’ve just got to keep it going.”
Day 2 has the 110-metre hurdles, discus, pole vault, javelin, and 1,500 metres.
Moments before departing the mixed zone, Warner said: “I’m going to get my bag, I’m going to get some food, and I’m going to go to bed. Short and sweet.”
Canada’s Derek Drouin, in the high jump, and javelin thrower Liz Gleadle looked strong in qualifying rounds.
Drouin, a world and Olympic bronze medallist, cleared the qualifying mark of 2.31 metres on his first attempt, and was one of three jumpers on the day with no misses.
“I’m feeling confident,” said the 25-year-old from Corunna, Ont. “I’m definitely happy with how today went, it gives me more confidence going into Sunday (final).”
Gleadle, a 26-year-old from Vancouver, tossed 64.02 on her first attempt, and called it a night, having achieved the automatic qualifying mark for the final.
“Came here with a plan: Throw far. Do it once. And leave. Eat some food, get some sleep and be ready for the final,” Gleadle said. “I did it, so everything’s according to plan.”
Elsewhere, Rachel Seaman of Peterborough, Ont., finished 13th in the women’s 20k racewalk.