Sunday, June 30, 2013
Fabian Heinle: won the Long Jump with 7.91m - Europe's best this year.
So I decided to take in the Jumping at the International Junior Gala U20 Track and Field at Mannheim this weekend and barged in to hang out with the UK team. I sauntered up to this bloke in his 60s-ish in a UK track suit and started bragging about how great a long jumper I was at school, but he curiously didn't seem particularly impressed. Turns out he was Alan Lerwill. OMG - as is the contemporary acronym - Alan Lerwill! He was my bloody hero in the 1970s. Olympic Long Jump finalist in Munich, Commonwealth Games Gold medallist, UK High Jump record holder. Whoops.
Lerwill was competing in the Mexico Olympics in 68 when Bob Beamon performed the greatest athletic feat ever. Lerwill was talking to his coach, Tom McNab (technical director for Chariots of Fire), when Beamon jumped further than the optical measuring device's range, so the officials had to find a tape measure. When they announced the distance, 8.90m, neither Lerwill nor McNab knew what that meant - they had to use conversion tables to feet and inches, but the Long Jump tables didn't go that far either, so they had to use the tables for the Shot Put. Beamon had jumped 29ft 2 1/2 inches, breaking the World Record by nearly two feet. 45 years later it's still the Olympic Record.
As for the Junior Gala, Alan is here coaching the UK U20 team. The UK male jumpers, Efe Uwaifu, Elliot Safu and Feron Sayers are all very polite kids. Efe and Elliot are going to Harvard next year. Harvard! Why Harvard? What's wrong with UTK? Elliot wants to study chemistry, even! We have a great track and field team. I did try to do a bit of recruiting myself, though. If UT has the scholarships I know who they need, now. Go Vols!
Some of these kids will become Olympic Champions (the reigning Olympic Champion won here in 2005), others won't make it at all. It's a rough, tough life they have. Efe couldn't get it right yesterday. Either too much energy and a no-jump or not enough energy. Alan told him to approach in a more upright posture but it seemed to me that he lost forward momentum doing that. You need to drive forward with maximum speed then straighten up just before hitting the board. Mind you, I'm not exactly the one who has been coaching this for the last 50 years, am I? So I kept my trap shut for once.