Tajay Gayle Jumps into Jamaica’s History Book

Jamaica’s 23-year-old long jumper Tajay Gayle leaped into his country’s history book yesterday (28) by winning long jump gold with 8.69 meters at the 2019 World Championships in Athletics in Doha, Qatar.

Gayle, who had an excellent season going into Doha, struggled in the qualifying round the day before the final, not being able to surpass 7.89, a long way from his personal best (pb) 8.32 meters. He barely squeezed his way into the group of final 12 qualifiers with the 12th and last best jump. That distance was his shortest of the season.

Having done that, Gayle asked fans to not give up on him and promised confidently that he would fix his technical glitch and get things right for the final. He also noted that the magnitude of the Championships did not bother him, neither did the presence of other competitors affect his confidence. He was quite familiar with his rivals because he had been competing with them all season.

Coach’s Intervention

And fix the glitch Gayle did. His coach, Stephen Francis, said he saw what happened with Gayle in the qualifying round and decided to oversee Gayle’s preparation for the final.

“The difference between the qualifying and the final is that he was forced to warn up properly,” Francis said. “Oftentimes I’m not around to monitor it and he tends to shirk that. He went out for the qualifying cold. I told him I would personally oversee his warmup for the final, and I think that was the main difference.”

Then with his opening jump of an 8.46 meters pb, he put pressure on red-hot favorites Juan Miguel Echevarría of Cuba (pb 8.68), who qualified with the longest jump of 8.40 meters and Olympic champion Jeff Henderson of the USA. Echevarría and Henderson never jumped farther than 8.34 and 8.39 (season best), respectively, to eventually win bronze and silver. But Gayle jumped longer on his fourth attempt and passed on the sixth and last after confirming he had put the gold medal further out of reach from the runners-up.

National Record Lands Him in Top 10

His medal, the first long jump gold for Jamaica, and his 8.69 meters erased the 22-year-old national record 8.62 meters held by James Beckford and ejected Echevarría from the 10th spot on the all-time list. It was the longest jump in a World Championship final in 24 years since Ivan Pedrosa’s 8.71.

Coach Francis believes that there is more to come from Gayle. “It is quite satisfying that he went further than I had expected him to go,” he told the media. “I expected him to go 8.5 meters or thereabouts, and it’s a tribute to his ability to concentrate and ignore the pressure and to execute to get as far as he did with the (all-time) 10th furthest jump in the World.”

He believes Gayle can eventually surpass America’s Mike Powell’s world record of 8.95m set in 1991.