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Idowu soars to the front for today's final

PUBLISHED: 11:22 21 August 2008 | UPDATED: 13:33 05 October 2010

By JONATHAN CLEGG PHILLIPS Idowu cemented his position as red hot favourite for today s Olympic triple jump final after sailing through qualifying for the event this week - and he has now set his sights on beating Jonathan Edwards world record. Idowu,

By JONATHAN CLEGG

PHILLIPS Idowu cemented his position as red hot favourite for today's Olympic triple jump final after sailing through

qualifying for the event this week - and he has now set his sights on beating Jonathan Edwards' world record.

Idowu, Britain's best bet for a second athletics gold in Beijing, made a perfect start in his bid to land the title as he needed just one leap on Monday to book his place in the final.

Former Raine's Foundation School pupil Idowu landed a jump of 17.44m with his first effort in qualifying - a full 34cm further than the required distance.

His mark, the longest ever achieved in China, was unsurpassed by any of his rivals for the title.

By reaching the final at the first attempt, Idowu cast off memories of Athens 2004, when he produced three no-jumps in qualifying and failed to advance to the final.

The 29-year-old developed a reputation for failing to perform on the big stage following his dismal performance four years ago but he has come on in leaps and bounds since then.

This has been Idowu's year and he appears destined for victory today.

He won the world indoor title in Valencia in March and has not been beaten on the European circuit this summer.

He has also shown on many occasions that he has developed the technique and mentality to respond to any situation and produce the big jumps that win competitions.

Idowu leads the world rankings with the 17.58m he jumped at the Olympic trials in Birmingham last month and has seen off all challengers ahead of the Games.

But he insists that only by taking gold and beating former Olympic champion Edwards' world record of 18.29m will he finally be recognised as the country's best triple jumper.

"My priority is Olympic gold. I don't want to look back at the end of the year with any regrets about what I've done," said Idowu.

"But I know I will always be No2 until I have done what Jonathan Edwards has done. But I don't mind that - it means there's a target and something to aim at.

"I want to be the best and be seen as No.1. I know he's retired now, but I have to surpass what he's done in the past. Sometimes I'll land at 17.50m and think about him jumping 18.29m. But that's got to be my aim and my target."

Edwards, who watched Idowu soar into the final from his BBC commentary position, is one of the fiercest critics of his former rival but he believes Idowu is capable of setting a new benchmark for the event in China.

He said: "Phillips was nowhere near flat out [on Monday] and there appears much more to come.

"I thought Phillips handled the pressure incredibly well.

"If you think back over the last few years, you were not sure which Phillips would turn up. Now there is no doubt.

"He looks in fantastic shape. He's a lot more athletic and agile and he's a lot more in control of his technique.

"This is a man who is favourite for a gold medal in Beijing. That's a huge pressure on his shoulders.

"I know all about that. It does weigh heavy but he has been lapping it up.

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