14 August Print
RIO DE JANEIRO — After winning the gold medal in the long jump on Saturday night, Jeff Henderson got an unexpected history lesson.
An Olympic official opened a press conference by announcing that the United States has won 22 gold medals in the long jump, more gold medals won by any country in any event.
“I did not know about that until now,’’ said Henderson, 23, from McAlmont, Ark. “But it feels good to be in that category, to win that many medals. It feels surreal right now.’’
Oh, and one more thing he wanted to add.
”I guarantee you Carl Lewis can’t say much about it now,’’ Henderson said.
HIGHLIGHT: Henderson’s huge final attempt earns him gold in long jump
Later, Henderson explained that he’s heard Lewis make unflattering remarks about the current crop of American long jumpers. And the truth is, Lewis, who won four Olympic gold medals in the long jump, had no reason to apologize.
The U.S. has won all but six of the long jump competitions in the 28 Olympics. But heading into the Rio Games, an American hadn’t won the gold since Dwight Phillips prevailed at the 2004 Athens Games.
In 2000, the Americans failed to medal in the event for the first time in Olympic history (with the exception of the boycott of the 1980 Moscow Games). They failed to medal again in 2008, won a measly bronze in 2012 and looked at the same prospect Saturday night.
Entering the final round, Henderson trailed South Africa’s Luvo Manyonga and Great Britian’s Greg Rutherford.
On his last attempt, with Manyonga leading with a jump of 8.37 meters, Henderson leaped 8.38 meters (27 feet, 6 inchest) to put USA back atop the long jump medal stand. Which is appropriate considering USA’s history of star long jumpers that includes Olympic champion Jesse Owens, Olympic record holder Bob Beamon and world record holder Mike Powell.
Oh, and Lewis, with whom Henderson said he has no beef despite Lewis’ remarks about the current American long jumpers and despite Henderson’s crack during the press conference.
“He’s trying to test us,’’ Henderson said, adding that he is motivated by the Americans’ record-setting jumps more than a foot ahead of his own best. “I want to be able to jump that far next year. So when I get a chance to do that, I will do it.
“I will do it next year. That’s a promise.’’
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