Pat Butcher for the IAAF
10 August 2001 - Edmonton- When Savanté Stringfellow leapt out aggressively to 8.33 metres in qualifying on Thursday, our American colleagues must have breathed a collective sigh of relief (while reaching for those little books which tell what the distance is in feet and inches!). For the men’s long jump more or less belongs to Uncle Sam. It’s worth noting the names of the non-US men who have won the Olympic title, if only for the fact that they are substantially fewer than the Americans who have won - William Petterson of Sweden in 1920 (7.15m), Lynn Davis of the UK in 1964 (8.07m), Lutz Dombrowski of East Germany in the absence of the boycotting Americans in 1980, although his 8.54m would have taken some beating, and Iván Pedroso of Cuba, with 8.55m in Sydney.
Although Pedroso has also won the last three world titles - following the previous four for the USA (Carl Lewis and Mike Powell twice each) - something happened in Sydney last year. With past luminaries like Jesse Owens, Ralph Boston and the sand-breaking Bob Beamon, and less than ten years after one of the greatest contests in the history of the sport - Powell and Lewis at the World Championships in Tokyo 1991 - following the glut came the famine. The USA could field just one man in the Olympic long jump last year. And Dwight Phillips could only finish eighth behind the victory of the elegant Cuban, Pedroso.
But now they’re back! Stringfellow led the qualifiers, and despite some subdued jumping, due to a swirling headwind, Phillips joined him in the final with 7.95 metres, and the third American, Miguel Pate was right behind on 7.89 metres. But the big question, of course is, can Pedroso continue to dominate? His eight metre opener looked like an exhibition jump, with plenty of height and the usual elegant execution, but it was far from full out. Admittedly, he was jumping last but one in his pool, and could see that no one was going far as fast as Stringfellow, but the Cuban’s second attempt was only 7.95 metres, and he finished with a foul, albeit knowing he was assured of a finals place as fourth best qualifier.
The other men who impressed on Thursday evening were James Beckford of Jamaica, Kareem Streete-Thompson of the Cayman Islands, and Olexiy Lukashevych. The Ukrainian was only edged out of a medal in the final round in Sydney, but the reigning Universiade champion has had mixed results coming into Edmonton. Commonwealth record holder Beckford, on the other hand has had a string of good competitions, although Monaco, where he finished second was his only really big one. Streete-Thompson has not had the distraction of the 100 metres this time. He was entered without his knowledge in 1999, and reached the final! Perhaps unsurprisingly, he did not qualify for the long jump final.
Another good run, after his close Olympic silver in the 400 metres hurdles by Saudi Arabian, Hadi Al-Somaily might be just the impetus that his impressively built colleague Hussein Al-Sabee needs to rack his challenge up a notch or two in the sandpit. But what we won’t get is a repeat of the great Sydney duel between Pedroso and home favourite Jai Taurima. ‘Jumping Jai’ is more like ‘Hobbling Jai’ this year, and didn’t even make it to Edmonton. But, on the strength of his qualifier, Stringfellow looks as if he is a more than able deputy for the Taurima role. The American could not have had a better omen that becoming the first man to win both the college and national titles in the USA for the first time in 16 years....since Mike Powell!