Apart from the Finns, the red-vested Americans were the most popular athletes in Helsinki, and none pleased the crowd more than Willie Banks. The backstraight spectators were delighted when Banks asked them to clap rhythmically when he took to the runway. He rewarded them with the best jump of the first round – 17.08 – before returning to listen to music from “Dreamgirls” on his personal stereo. Under current rules, it would be illegal for him to take such devices infield.
The crowd were also getting behind the other jumpers, who responded by producing a spate of 17m efforts. In round three Conley went ahead at 17.13, only to be overtaken immediately by Banks’s 17.18. In round four, neither of the Americans improved, but Hoffmann, jumping last, matched Banks’s leading distance and moved into second place on countback. At this point, the first eight comprised four pairs of jumpers each with identical distances.
Banks was unable to improve, but Hoffmann continued his progress in the fifth: 17.35 into a headwind. Banks responded with his longest leap, around 17.50, but it was a borderline foul. The Pole ended the contest with 17.42. He had improved with eachone of his jumps.