Thu | Nov 14, 2019

Gayle can become best ever – Francis

Published:Monday | September 30, 2019 | 12:22 AM
Tajay Gayle jumps 8.69m to become the national record holder and IAAF World Champion at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha, Qatar on Saturday.
Tajay Gayle jumps 8.69m to become the national record holder and IAAF World Champion at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha, Qatar on Saturday.

DOHA, Qatar:

MVP Track Club co-founder and coach, Stephen Francis believes freshly minted long jump gold medallist Tajay Gayle can develop into one of the greatest jumpers in history, while admitting to being surprised by his massive 8.69m mark at the World Championships.

Gayle became the first Jamaican to win a major senior global title in the long jump after setting a new national record in the event, getting the better of American Jeff Henderson, 8.39m, and pre-championship favourite Juan Miguel Echevarria from Cuba, 8.34m.

Francis, who has been coaching Gayle for four years, says that he was not expecting the 22-year-old athlete to jump as far as he did in the final on Saturday inside the Khalifa International Stadium, but thinks that once he manages to stay focused and avoid major setbacks, he will end his career as one of the best jumpers the world has ever seen.

“With every athlete I coach, I try to get them to be the best that they possibly can be. It was a sort of bee in my bonnet this season because I expected him to go to 8.4m because I thought it was a step towards the next year and the year after that and maybe towards him being the best jumper ever, or one of (the best), certainly, so therefore we always had to be working on it,” Francis told The Gleaner.

“Obviously it is quite satisfying that he went further than I had expected him to go … . It’s a tribute to his ability to concentrate and ignore the pressure and to execute, that he got as far as he did … for someone who has only been training with us for four years,” added Francis.

The coach underlined the quality of Gayle’s jump, which ranks as the 10th-best in history, while highlighting the former Papine High School athlete’s potential.

“The IAAF tables, which equalises performances across all events says that his jump yesterday (Saturday) is better than 9.77 seconds in the 100m and slightly less, given the wind; one point less than 9.76, which (Christian) Coleman won, so therefore, he is on the level of Coleman, which says it all. He has propelled himself into the stratosphere and I expect him to go even further, maybe to the moon,” Francis smiles.

“Best in the world? That is the aim, he is 23 this year and I think that he has only been with us four years, so given the lifespan of the athletes that we normally have, barring injury and bad luck and so on, and that he will be able to cope with all that this has brought or will bring and focus, then I think he will go a lot further in the near future,” Francis shared.

Gayle produced the winning jump on his fourth attempt after taking and maintain the lead up to that point with his opening effort of 8.46m.

His winning mark of 8.69m replaced James Beckford’s previous national record of 8.62m, which was set in 1997.

andre.lowe@gleanerjm.com