Israeli Athlete Triple Jumps to Rio Finals, but Must Break Her Best for Gold

Hanna Knyazyeva-Minenko has made it to the Rio finals after finishing fourth for Ukraine at the 2012 London Olympics.

Hanna Knyazyeva-Minenko competes in the women's triple jump qualifying round, Rio de Janeiro, August 13, 2016.
Ivan Alvarado, Reuters

Saturday’s scenario in the triple-jump qualifying round in Rio was almost identical to the European Championship in Amsterdam a month ago. Both times, Israel’s Hanna Knyazyeva-Minenko was disqualified in her first two tries and jumped 14.2 meters (46.6 feet) in her third attempt. In the Netherlands, she was centimeters from disqualification and flew 14.51 meters to take the European silver.

Now at the Olympics, the 14.2 meters got the former Ukrainian to the triple-jump finals after coming in eighth in the qualifying round. All told, 12 athletes will compete in the women’s triple-jump finals on Monday.

Knyazyeva-Minenko was as usual very charming and smiled during her interview, though she was a little unfocused. Minutes after the qualifying round she still hadn’t gathered her thoughts.

“We’ll see you tomorrow, I’m not here,” she said at first, laughing. “I don’t know what happened, I felt like I had just gotten up in the morning. It’s not a morning problem because I love jumping in the morning,” she added, saying that maybe it had to do with the weather.

“I didn’t feel my body and it’s like I wasn’t here; it’s the first time I felt this way. In the warmup I felt like everything was heavy. We’ll see you tomorrow in the finals and we’ll see what happens,” she said.

“I hope it’s better than today. It hurt me a little but the head is what’s important. I want to say congratulations to Ori Sasson and Yarden Gerbi; I’m very happy and saw all the fights,” she added, referring to Israel’s bronze-medal judokas.

In the 2012 London Olympics, when Knyazyeva-Minenko represented Ukraine, she came in fourth in the women’s triple jump. In 2013, she became an Israeli citizen and relocated to the country after marrying a former Israeli decathlon champion.

To get to the winner’s podium, Knyazyeva-Minenko will apparently have to come close to her personal best, 14.78 meters an Israeli record. Also, last year Knyazyeva took the silver medal in the women’s triple jump at the World Championships in Beijing.

Considering the feeling she described Saturday, and the score she managed despite her discomfort, there’s room for optimism.