Golden Idowu wins Le Crunch
Great Britain v France, part deux.
If Wednesday night and the searing finish of Christophe Lemaitre had put France 1-0 up, Thursday night was the second leg of the cross-Channel contest. In one corner, world champion Phillips Idowu, struggling all season; in the other, another Gallic tyro, Teddy Tamgho, big breakthrough star of athletics in 2010.
If Lemaitre is precocious, 21-year-old Teddy has already delivered. World indoor champion with a world indoor record, in New York in June he stunned the sport by producing 17.98 metres - making him the third longest jumper in history.
As the athletes lined up to be introduced to the Barcelona crowd, tip-toeing through the puddles on the blue runway, the contrast could not have been greater.
Idowu, poker-faced, responded to the cheers of the big British contingent with a muted wave. Tamgho, a ball of bouncing energy, took one look at the massed ranks of French fans with their painted faces and frantically waving tricolores and sprung away like Tigger on a trampoline.
"I'm a gorilla," Tamgho had said in the build-up. "But Phillips is a panther."
Conditions were so miserable a dolphin might have fancied their chances. Thunderstorms had battered the Estadio Olimpico all afternoon, leaving the runway soaked and the take-off board slippy. A stiff wind blew into the jumpers' faces.
Idowu deals with such slings and arrows with his own strange routine. As I discovered recently, before a competition he finds inner calm by playing a track and field game app on his iPad and popping his way through a large sheet of bubblewrap. At the track he dons a lucky white headband and red sweatbands, spares of both in his kitbag just in case.
In the words of his coach Aston Moore, the plan was simple: "Hit Tamgho hard early and make the stress settle in." Into a nasty headwind of 1.3m/sec, he did exactly that - 17.46m, fractionally down on his best all year. First blow landed.
Tamgho had barely sat down. Skinsuit open to the sternum, eyes out on stalks, he hammered down the runway, every bit as raw and rough as Phillips had been controlled. Way short of the board, with a huge step phase and ropey leg shoot, he was more than 30 centimetres down.
His next was better. After Phillips had improved by one centimetre, outwardly at least impervious to the pressure and noise, Tamgho hit the board with an audible thunk and sailed out to 17.42m.
Trackside, his coach Laurence Bily gave a Gallic shrug. Comme ci, comme ca.
Idowu barely blinked. A glance at Moore, a touch of the gold crucifix hanging round his neck and another robotically consistent leap - 17.40m.
The British fans puffed out their cheeks. With a warm breeze blowing away the black clouds, conditions were improving. The runway was drying up. The lead was in danger.
At 31, Idowu is starting to feel like the elder statesman of his event. After watching Tamgho struggle at the European Team Championships in Bergen earlier this summer, he advised his young rival to stay calmer between rounds, to conserve energy. In response, Tamgho had called him the "big brother" of triple-jump.
In his first European final, the wonderkid seemed to have forgotten the lesson. He was hyperactive, pacing up and down the back straight, all twitches and tenterhooks.
"In championships it's important not to reflect too much," he had said earlier in the week. "You just have to run and jump and not think about it."
Sometimes that works. Sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes you do have to stop and think about it and ask yourself if you're doing it right.
The self-confessed gorilla attempted to ape his main rival. From his bag he pulled out a lucky white headband of his own and pulled in on at an endearingly wonky angle. A red sweatband to match Phillips' was tugged up over the right elbow.
It seemed to make things worse. He fouled by a long margin, and then fouled again. Needing way less than in the Big Apple, he seemed to be aiming for the stars, trying too hard and falling well short.
By contrast, Idowu was a study in control. A cushion of five centimetres shouldn't be that comfortable, but he was locked in his routine, going through the same tried and tested motions that he had used in Berlin a year ago when he took that world crown.
Then, in the fourth round, it all came together. In Berlin he had conjured up a personal best just when he needed it most; in Barcelona he found the magic ingredients again.
A jump of 17.81m, even 11.2cm shy on the board. The arms went up, the tongue-stud poked out between grinning lips. Coach Moore, twice a bronze medallist himself at the Commonwealth Games, looked up at the dark sky and allows himself a little grin.
That should have been that. Most jumpers fatigue through a competition. It's rare to produce your best at the death. But Idowu knew he could not relax.
At the World Indoors last March, Tamgho had trailed going into his final attempt, only to overhaul Yoandri Betanzos with a new world indoor record of 17.90m. His spectacular leap in New York? On his last jump.
For his last sally, he added another sweatband to the other arm, pulling it high on to the bicep and gesticulating at his compatriots in the crowd to roar him down the runway.
It never happened. To rub salt in the wound, Romania's Marian Oprea out-jumped him at the death for silver.
Idowu tried to take his final jump, but the waterworks had started and he waved the judges away. There was a hug from Tamgho, a Union flag from a British supporter in the crowd and then two laps of honour, just to be on the safe side.
"It's been a tough tough year," he said afterwards. "I always work hard, and... I can't even speak. I knew back in March, the way Teddy was jumping, I'd knew a PB to win. I think me and my coach got it right - we just planned for this day."
Watching in the stands for BBC Sport was Jonathan Edwards, European champion himself 12 years ago and the man whose world record mark Tamgho may one day threaten.
"It is about producing your best when it matters the most and Phillips has done that," he said.
"On the back of a tricky season, when he hasn't looked 100%, I honestly didn't think he
was going to win. I thought Teddy was going to take gold. But Phillips really dominated from the start. In conditions that weren't good - it was wet, and they were going into the wind - he was outstanding.
"Teddy will jump those big distances in future and will come to London in 2012 as a more experienced competitor and he will be a handful. Make no mistake - the Frenchman is here to stay.
"Phillips hasn't been in the greatest of shape, he has had injury problems, but it has come right on the day. I always wanted to go into major championships knowing my best form was in the bag but Phillips hasn't had that coming here. So to do what he did was very mentally tough.
"We did criticise him a bit earlier in his career - he fouled out in the 2004 Olympics, didn't do very well at the 2005 Worlds in Helsinki, and again at the 2007 Worlds in Osaka. But that was by far the best performance I have seen him produce."
Earlier there had been more good news for the British supporters to cheer, Martyn Bernard snatching a surprise bronze in a tough high jump competition and performing an impromptu dance with his umbrella as the stadium PA played Singin' In The Rain.
The French eventually had a little fun of their own too, when Romain Barras took decathlon gold and Lemaitre came out for his 100m medal ceremony. But this was Britain's, and Phillips', night.
Break out the bubblewrap. Great Britain 1, France 1.