J'can Gayle gets backing from sprint/long jump legends
Tajay Gayle, Jamaican World Championships gold medallist(Photo: Observer file)

American Carl Lewis and Cayman Island's Kareem Streete-Thompson — the only two men in the history of track and field to record a jump over 8.50m and run the 100m under 10.00 seconds — have thrown their support behind World Champion long jumper Tajay Gayle's plans to add the 100m to his repertoire next season.

Lewis, who won nine Olympic Games medals and has personal bests of 9.86 seconds in the 100m and 8.87m in the long jump, and the New York-born Streete-Thompson, who ran 9.96 seconds and jumped 8.63m, going over the 8.50m mark three times in his career, have reacted positively to the Jamaican's announcement posted on Twitter earlier this week.

On Monday, Gayle said on his Twitter account: “Well it's official, I'll be running 100m next season, sigh. I didn't wanna do this to the sprinters but oh well, wish me luck.”

Gayle holds the Jamaican long jump record of 8.69m which he set while winning the World Championships in Doha in 2019 and has a personal best 10.18 seconds done in May this year at National Stadium.

Gayle's long jump best is the 10th longest of all times and his only legal mark over 8:50m, a mark which Lewis said the Jamaican should aim to achieve with some consistency.

“Long jump 8.50m consistently or forget it,” Lewis posted on social media. He added: “It definitely can be done, so I say to go for it. Remember, the way to win two is to dominate one first. My sprinting came when the long jump was rock solid. I'm sure @kaystreete will tell you the same.”

Streete-Thompson, who is the associate head coach at the University of Texas-San Antonio, told the Jamaica Observer, “I am in full support of Gayle's plan to add the 100m to his repertoire. He has shown that he is naturally fast in the 100m.

“Tajay has the potential to be an 8.70m-plus jumper and he can run under 10.00 seconds in the 100m if he stays healthy. He has already proven that he can rise to the occasion when it counts. The biggest question mark is how quickly he can adapt to running with elite sprinters,” the three-time Olympian said.

“In order to be competitive he will have to feel like he belongs in their realm. In the long jump you have multiple attempts to win the competition. In the 100m, one mistake can cost you the race. He will have to be a quick study,” Streete-Thompson added.

Streete-Thompson, who was primarily a jumper, said running the 100m “was a welcome distraction during a very tumultuous time in my life”.

“I had run 10.16 in college but never in my wildest dreams think that I would be capable of a sub 10.00 seconds clocking,” he said.

With more emphasis on his sprinting, Gayle is expected to significantly lower his personal best and move up in the Jamaican ranks from 74th all time and 35th among active runners and Streete-Thompson said this could help more than hinder him in the long jump.

“Carl Lewis was able to use his world-class speed on the runway and convert it into massive jumps regularly because he was an efficient sprinter and a master technician on the take off,” he reasoned.

“The increased speed that Tajay will gain from running races will only assist his long jump distances if he is able to harness his speed on the runway.”

Gayle's Olympic Games ambitions were foiled by injuries this year, and despite a courageous battle in Tokyo, limped down the runway late in the competition. In the process, he failed to get into the top eight.

Streete-Thompson said: “From a physical standpoint sprinting is easier on your body than jumping so I anticipate that he will able to be healthier next season.”

Former track stars and now college coaches, Kareem Streete-Thompson (left) and Carl Lewis(right) at the Pan-American Under-20 Championships in San Jose, Costa Rica, in 2019.Streete-Thompson, who coaches at University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) and Lewis whocoaches at his alma mater, the University of Houston, are the only men to have run the 100munder 10 seconds and jumped over 8.50m in the long jump. (Photo: Paul Reid)
BY PAUL A REID Observer writer reidp@jamaicaobserver.com

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