Sat | Aug 19, 2017

James Beckford at the double

Published:Wednesday | July 26, 2017 | 7:18 AMHubert Lawrence
James Beckford

The national focus on sprints often leads to long jumpers moving away from the pit once they show some speed. With that in mind, it's little wonder that the country's all-time World Championships medal haul is modest. According to David Riley, coach of 2017 long jump national champion Ramone Bailey, a new approach might be needed.

Thanks to James Beckford, born here but bred in the United States, Jamaica has two World long jump medals. Beckford took silver medals in both 1995 and 2003, set the national record of 8.62 metres, and finished in second place at the 1996 Olympics.

Only two other Jamaicans have ever reached the World Championship long jump final. They are Maurice Wignall, who went on to specialise successfully in the 110 metre hurdles and Damar Forbes. Wignall made it in 1997 and Damar Forbes, who like Beckford was born here but developed in the US, reached the final in 2013.

Riley reckons that his colleague coaches need to do more to preserve their jumpers. "I think there might be a need to have a different approach for the other coaches," recommended the man who coached winning jumpers including Bailey, Christoff Bryan, and Kamal Fuller during his days at Wolmer's. "I'm willing to share some of the information with them," he said, "because I do think they jump too often."

He is concerned that having the athletes compete too frequently reduces their longevity.

"I understand the physics. I understand the biomechanics and the forces that the body has to endure with those impacts," he explained. "We really have to access those and calculate what the load is so that we can preserve the jumper," he advised.

He predicts that this approach will produce more success in the jumps.

"So just the strategies to make sure the jumper is preserved is something we need to get the other coaches to pay a lot greater attention to," he stressed, "and then we'll see the athletes coming through."

Beckford also holds the national triple jump record at 17.92 metres. Even though he spanned that distance 22 years ago, Beckford is still joint number seven all-time in triple jump history. When the Jamaican produced that huge effort, it was just five centimetres off the world record. He, however, continued to compete only in the long jump.