GAYLE FORCE! - Tajay leaps to historic gold


Sunday, September 29, 2019

Doha, Qatar — Jamaica opened its medal count when Tajay Gayle struck a surprise gold medal in the long jump and established a new national record of 8.69m (0.5 mps) at the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Athletics Championships at Khalifa International Stadium yesterday.

The country thus moved into joint third place on the medals table behind the United States of America with four medals courtesy of two gold. Kenya are second with two medals.

Gayle, who produced an indifferent performance on Friday and narrowly advanced to the final as the 12th and last qualifier, turned things around dramatically to become Jamaica's first world champion in the long jump.

The 23-year-old, who was first into the pits, put the entire field under tremendous pressure with a magnificent jump of 8.46m which was a new personal best, and the second best jump in the world behind Cuba's Juan Miguel Echevarria's effort on August 29 in Zurich.

But after two foul jumps, he was still leading and upon his fourth jump Gayle produced a special one and you could tell after he bounced out of the pit on his toes with that wide smile as spectators inside the stadium acknowledged that it was indeed special — a magnificent 8.69m.

Gayle's effort was the longest jump in Jamaica's history, as he erased James Beckford's 22-year-old record of 8.62m set in 1997, and was the best jump worldwide in 24 years, which puts him 10th on the all-time list.

The world record of 8.95m is held by American Mike Powell — who was inside the venue — since 1991.

Though Gayle has etched his name among the greats of the event, yesterday's outstanding feat had not yet soaked in when he spoke to the Jamaica Observer.

“The best thing ever. I don't know, I can't explain it,” said Gayle, wrapped in the black, green and gold Jamaican flag.

“Putting the field under pressure that was the aim today, to get it from the first jump. I warmed up like I was going to run a 100m final, and I didn't let anything get to me even though I didn't do what I was expected to do yesterday (Friday),” Gayle explained.

He continued: “But I still got over it and did what I am supposed to do and I am very grateful of the outcome.”

On Friday Gayle noted that he and his coach were trying new techniques and somehow he forgot the basics and almost didn't make the final, but his coach sorted it out.

“Yesterday (Friday) I was overthinking some stuff but coach told me that there is nothing to think about only the run-up is the main thing; that's what matters most and everything will come and it flowed perfectly,” said Gayle.

Gayle has been having a tremendous year and the manner in which he turned around his form from Friday, having just 7.89m to a massive 8.69m, was remarkable.

His first effort of 8.46 would have also won gold as American Olympic champion Jeff Henderson finished second with 8.39m and howling favourite Echevarria took the bronze with 8.34m.

“I didn't make that get to me because any moment in time someone would get over it,” said Gayle of his opening jump.

“So I kept focusing on what I am supposed to do. The only thing I focused on today was the run-up,” he noted.