More often than not, I keep coming back to the fact that we live in a society that is obsessed with stars! With 24 hour news; highlights on ESPN; and social networking sites like Twitter and Instagram, an outstanding performance or two and a Colin Kaepernic can become a global sensation virtually overnight!
Track too has had it’s overnight sensations – a total of 700 meters in Beijing made Usain Bolt a household name. Just like other sports, we also have that kind of talent. Bolt, Blake, Merritt, Rudisha, Felix, Fraser Pryce – athletes that are getting a fair amount of coverage. But sports are built on a galaxy of stars, and it’s nice when there is variety. Football has quarterbacks, running backs, linebackers, receivers, defensive backs – stars at every position that the NFL markets at every opportunity. Similarly, we could use some stars in events other than the sprints and hurdles!
Especially in the field. The current generation of track fans is obsessed with speed, but I remember a time when athletes like Carl Lewis, Mike Conley, Willie Banks, Jonathon Edwards, Jackie Joyner Kersee, Heike Dreschler, Stefka Kostadinova, Mike Powell, Kenny Harrison, Javier Sotomayor, Charles Austin, and Hollis Conway! Wow, the memories just writing these names down. What do they have in common? They’re some of the most exciting jumpers this sport has ever seen.
Carl Lewis got his headlines in the sprints, but won four consecutive Olympic gold medals in the long jump! Willie Banks is THE reason jumpers implore fans to clap when they jump. Mike Powell took down the legendary Bob Beamon AND defeated Carl Lewis in the process! Mike Conley was a 58 foot triple jumper and 28 foot long jumper. Jonathon Edwards 60 feet and Javier Sotomayor 8 feet are both almost surreal today. And 24 foot long jumpers Heike Dreschler and Jackie Joyner Kersee had one of the sports greatest ever rivalries! I could go on and on, but the point is that the jumps has as much potential to create stars as any other discipline – possibly more when a jumper takes to the track a la Lewis, Conley, Powell, Joyner Kersee, and Dreschler et al.
So who’s next – after all there have to be some athletes out there capable of elevating to that level. I don’t think jump talent got left behind in the previous century. We came into the New Millennium with some outstanding athletes: Ivan Pedroso, Dwight Phillips, Jonathon Edwards, Javier Sotomayor, Heike Dreschler. Time and age took it’s tool as it does – leaving us to wait for others to ascend to new heights of performance as those that came before had done.
That wait has been incredibly long as we now enter the fourteenth year of the twenty-first century with no true stars in the jumps. But I think we have a group of youngsters with the potential to do some great things. Following are my picks for horizontal jumpers that I think could become memorable/marketable stars in this sport. While I personally enjoy the vertical jumpers and their abilities just as much, the back and forth of the horizontal jumps, with any attempt potentially the winner lends itself to high drama and Type "A" personalities – the kind of athletes that can carry a marketing campaign. Athletes capable of headline grabbing performances and star status!
Christian Taylor (USA) – Triple Jump / Long Jump
If there was ever an athlete waiting for stardom its Taylor. Only 22 years old, he will enter Moscow this summer as the reigning World and Olympic champion in the triple jump. But that’s just the beginning. His PR 17.96m/58′ 11" in the triple jump makes him #5 all time in the event. In his #2 event, he’s leaped 8.19m/26′ 10.5" in sparse competition. AND he can sprint running 20.76 & 45.34, in minimal competition. As a matter of fact, he split sub 45 in relay action when he was at Florida – maybe the wrong Taylor ran anchor on the 4×4 in London! We’ve seen the 100/LJ double played out several times, but the 400/LJ, now there’s new ground. Like I said, this kid is waiting for the spotlight, and the support should grab it and aim it in his direction.
Teddy Tamgho (FRA) – Triple Jump
Before Taylor won in Daegu & London,Tamgho looked like he was ready to dominate the event for some championships to come. He blasted a huge 17.90m/58′ 8.75" indoors in 2010 winning Worlds, then followed up with 17.98m/58′ 11.75" outdoors – just missing 59 feet! He improved indoors in ’11 going 17.92m/58′ 9.5"to win another World title, then 17.91m/58′ 9" outdoors. But injury curtailed his attempt at an outdoor World title, as it did his participation in London. At only 23 years old however, he had time to get past that injury bug and back to the 59 foot range! If her can do that, oh the excitement he and Taylor could give this sport!
Will Claye (USA) – Triple Jump / Long Jump
Claye medals in both the triple jump (silver) & long jump (bronze) in London – the only jumper to medal in both jumps at the Games! That in a nutshell tells you how good this twenty one year old jumper is. The best long/triple killer in the game today Claye had bests of 8.39m/27′ 2.25" in the long jump and 17.62m/57′ 9.75" in the triple jump. Together with Christian Taylor, there taken the triple jump from one of the US’s most dismal events to one of the strongest, add their typical placing in most events is one/two! Personally I think his best event could be the long jump, and 28 feet certainly a possibility. Our perhaps that’s wishful thinking on my part.
Britney Reese (USA) – Long Jump
Wow. That’s what I think every time I watch Reese jump. I’ve seen all the greats – Jackie Joyner Kersee, Heike Dreschler, Galina Chistyakova, and Tatiana Kotova among others. All were talented, but had solid, if not great, technique. Then there is Reese, who simply talents her way to 23 foot jumps! This woman may be the most talented jumper to ever grace the runway – and I shudder when I think of what she could do with Dreschler like technique. Natural ability has carried her 7.19m/23′ 7" outdoors and at 26 years old she still had plenty of time to clean you her technique and add a foot and a half to that! If do she could become the events first 25 footer – and THAT could cause a stir among sports fans in general.
The biggest headlines in this sport seem to come via athletes that are fast and explosive. The jumps are both fast and explosive and these athletes combine those talents as well as any on the track. I would love to see more from all of them in 2013.