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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Gold and Nothing Less for Lebedeva

APIn Athens, Lebedeva is aiming for gold in both the triple- and long-jump events.
Swimmer Alexander Popov may have been the Russian Olympic Committee's first choice to carry the Russian flag at the opening ceremony in Athens, but if his coaches hadn't let him out of his training schedule to do the honors, Tatyana Lebedeva would have been the logical replacement.

She has, after all, an obvious affinity for the her country's tricolor, having on several occasions dyed her hair in white, blue and red stripes while blowing out the competition in the triple jump.

What's more, of all the Russian athletes competing in Athens, Lebedeva, 28, is perhaps the most overwhelming favorite in her discipline.

Lebedeva, a native of the Bashkir city of Sterlitamak, has had a spectacular year. At the Iraklion Super Grand Prix last month in Greece she solidified her status as the Athens favorite by jumping 15.34 meters. The performance came on the heels of her dominating effort at another grand prix event in Gateshead, England, in June, where she took gold in the triple jump and bested American star Marion Jones in her other speciality -- the long jump -- with a leap of 6.87 meters.

At the World Indoor Championships in Budapest in March, Lebedeva scored the second-longest women's triple jump in history by leaping 15.36 meters. Only Ukraine's Inessa Kravets has jumped longer, leaping 15.50 meters in 1995. Lebedeva won the long jump in that event as well with a jump of 6.98 meters.

On Saturday Lebedeva barely needed to break into a sweat to ease into Monday's triple-jump final, needing just one effort to qualify with 14.71 meters.

The two-time triple-jump world champion took silver at the 2000 Sydney Games, but she says this time around she will be satisfied with nothing but gold.

"Now anything less than first place is no different from last place," Lebedeva told Sport-Express. "But if I win a gold medal in Athens, then in the next Olympics I'll be happy with bronze. Just to have a full set of Olympic medals."