Gayle can break my record – Powell
Long Jump world record holder Mike Powell believes that Jamaica’s World Championships gold medallist Tajay Gayle has all the tools required to erase his 28-year-old world record. Gayle shocked the world when he upset Cuban Juan Miguel Echevarria to win gold in the men’s long jump final at the Doha 2019 World Championships with a massive 8.69m personal best. American Jeff Henderson, 8.39m, took the silver medal with the Cuban finishing third with a best of 8.34m.
The Jamaican’s winning distance was the best mark registered since Dwight Phillips’ 8.74m in 2009 and makes him the 10th best jumper in history. Powell won World Championships gold medals at the 1993 championship in Stuttgart, Germany, and before that in 1991 in Tokyo, Japan, where he flew to 8.95m, a mark that has not been tested since.
The 55-year-old American, who was in the stands at the Khalifa International Stadium to witness Gayle’s performance on September 28, was left impressed with both his range and his demonstration of mental fortitude to deliver his best performance on the biggest stage.
“I was watching the jumps and when he jumped the 8.46m on his first attempt, I said ‘OK, that’s pretty good’. I then wanted to see what kind of response Echevarria was going to make,” Powell told The Gleaner.
Signs of a champion
“It’s how you see the signs of a champion. I was looking for him (Echevarria) to drop an 8.50m right then and there in response, but he was messing around. Gayle then went 8.69m and listen man, that’s a tall order for anyone to beat. I think only two people have come back from that, myself and Carl Lewis,” Powell stated in response to his epic battle with Lewis at the 1991 World Championships, where they registered the number-one and number-three ranked wind-legal jumps in history.
“They are jumping very well. When I picture someone breaking my world record, it is somebody who is tall and fast and we have that in Tajay Gayle,” Powell stated.
“As much as I like being the world record holder, it’s been almost 30 years, man. I wasn’t that good, somebody’s got to come do it.”
The two-time Olympic silver medallist says he is expecting further improvements from the MVP jumper and is keen to see how he handles the added pressure going forward.
“There have been people who have shown that they are capable of breaking the record, and now we have to add Gayle’s name to the list because as I always say, if you can jump 8.60m three or four times, you can go 8.90m, you can catch one, so we will have to see if he stays consistent, but I think he will get even better,” Powell shared before noting that he would like to see the 23-year-old doing the 100m to improve his speed, which he thinks is the only way he will achieve the world-record mark.
“He’s still young. I spoke to his coach (Stephen Francis); they didn’t expect him to do this well already … Now the pressure is going to be on him now to perform consistently.
Speed is the difference
“The speed is what matters. That’s the difference with when I was jumping and the way they are jumping now – you have to be fast. I’m watching now and they are not running. There is only one way to go up there, you have to really go fast!” Powell exclaimed.
With Gayle and Echevarria expected to continue their battle in the coming years, Powell is looking forward to great improvements in the event.
“I am happy to see that the jumpers are performing at a high level, where people want to pay attention. wIt’s a big story now, now we got somebody else because both him (Gayle) and Echevarria are jumping well now, and hopefully, the other jumpers will step up as well,” Powell said.
Powell is now working with high- school jumpers in the United States and says he will likely be coaching a number of Chinese jumpers in the near future as well.