The Olympics ended over two weeks ago. We’re still hung over from all the athletic competition. But if there’s one thing that can get you excited about Olympic sports again so soon after the London Games, it’s this: Usain Bolt talking about the long jump.
Bolt is so playful, he can be difficult to read. So when he mused Wednesday about trying new events, you have to wonder about taking him too seriously. Still, the idea of Bolt testing his athleticism in different areas is impossible to ignore. At a promotional event in Switzerland, Bolt said that he was aiming to defend his Olympic titles Rio in 2016, and that he was thinking of giving the long jump a shot:
“It’s just about making different goals, there’s a lot of things I can do in the sport. My coach wants me to do the 400 meters, I want to try long jump.”
Yes! Please do! Bolt has cemented his status as the greatest sprinter ever. Assuming he still holds the world records for the 100 and 200-meter races come 2016, watching him win those Olympic titles for a third time won’t be terribly dramatic. But the long jump could definitely raise the stakes.
It also happens to be the ideal complementary event for Bolt, not as physically draining as running heats and the finals of the 400-meter race. (Bolt has long insisted he won’t run the 400 – it’s just not fun for him). Imagine Bolt sprinting up to the long jump line at full speed, and using his 6’5″ frame t0 launch himself through the air … before unfurling his legs into the sand. With work, Bolt might jump past the pit, and land in the stands. He’d be a serious threat in the event.
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And the event could use that kind of jolt. The long jump used to be a marquee track and field attraction. It once even made worldwide news in an Olympic off-year. At the 1991 world championships in Tokyo, American Mike Powell broke the long jump world record set by Bob Beamon at the 1968 Olympics: Powell beat it by two inches, leaping 29 ft, 4 1/2 in. The New York Times said that Beamon’s mark “was considered the one record that would stand for the ages.” Powell still owns the record. What’s more, the top track and field stars once routinely sprinted and soared. Both Jesse Owens and Carl Lewis won Olympic long jump golds.
Now, the long jump is an afterthought. At the Olympic Stadium in London, the long jump felt like filler, something to distract the crowd while it waited for the races. On the night in which three British track and field athletes won gold within an hour — one of the most stirring moments in the country’s sporting history — long jumper Greg Rutherford received much less post-game adulation and attention than hepathlete Jessica Ennis and distance runner Mo Farah.
Bolt has little, if anything, left to prove in his track and field career. But he hasn’t accomplished one thing at an Olympics: winning four golds, in the 100, 200, 4 by 100 relay, and long jump. Both Owens and Lewis pulled off this quadruple, in Berlin (1936) and Los Angles (1984), respectfully. If you’re Bolt, why not give this a try in Rio? If he falls short, so what? It would hardly take away from what he has already accomplished: the records, the Olympic and world championship thrills, the status as savior of his sport.
Plus, after winning the 200 in London, Bolt closed his press conference on a surprising note: he ripped into Lewis, saying he “lost all respect” for the American legend since Lewis has questioned whether drug testing in Jamaica is stringent enough.”The things he says about the track athletes is really [degrading] for another athlete to say something like that,” Bolt said. “I think he’s just looking for attention, really, because nobody really talks much about him.” Bolt has already run faster than Lewis — and every other human. If he jumps longer than Lewis too, he’d really sock it to him. Nothing would give Bolt — or Olympic fans — more pleasure.