I'm the Beethoven of long jump: Mike Powell

Olympian and World record holder announces plans to comeback for Rio.

Bengaluru: It’s been around a quarter of a century since Mike Powell set the long jump world record with a soaring leap that cleared 8.95 meters. And it remains to this day.

Here in Bengaluru as the brand ambassador for the TCS World 10K, the legendary American spoke at length about the current situation of the sport, his attempt for Rio Olympics berth and the record itself.

On trying for Rio Olympic at the age of 52:
You don’t forget how to jump. 8.05 (metres) is the qualifying mark and I am very confident. I’m good enough to jump 8.30. I know exactly how to do it. Jumping that, you will be in contention for a medal at any Olympics. Say I am at the trials. There is no way three people are going to beat me in any event. I’m the Beethoven of the long jump. If people, still doubt me, I say, ‘watch’. I am going to make that team. Because I have told my daughter that daddy is going to the Olympics. That’s my biggest motivation.

On doping:
I think that athletics is not treated fairly. We are the ones who bust our stars. Other sports don’t do that. And we get blamed for it. We are doing what we are supposed to do. Every line, any endevour you get into — where there’s money, power or influence involved, people are going to cheat. If you get caught, you should be gone to life. Unless there are some circumstances where may be something happened. They do 12,000 tests a year and numerically, there can be errors. In that case, you still (have to) get banned but not for life.

On Russia being eligible for Rio Olympics
No. They have been doing that for a long time. I feel sorry for the athletes but it’s the system. They have got to break the system and change the culture. It’s a different place and they have a different way of doing things. It’s unfortunate but they can’t be allowed to compete. My coach told me, ‘As a man you get the same results as somebody with steroids by training smart and hard.’ If you use steroids, all it does is to make you train harder the next day. I decided long time ago not to worry about my opponent. I know that I am telling the truth. That’s what matters. When I get older, I can tell my grand-kids, ‘man your grandpa was pretty good back in the day’. I got a world record and I don’t have to lie. Integrity, that means something to me.

On his record being still there
No. I did not think it would last 20 minutes, let alone 25 years. I though Carl Lewis is going to come and jump right after. It shouldn’t last this long. It’s not good for the event. Records are meant to be broken.

What is the reason?
I had to break it, I had to win. It’s easier to do something when you have to. The guys now, they don’t know what they are doing. I’m not going to tell them. If I do, they have to pay for it. Carl and I were talking about it and they are not using speed. They are so fixated on the board that they are jumping to the board and we just used to jump up to the sky.

On the present generation
The talent is there but they just don’t know how to do it. I don’t know if these young guys have the devotion. There are these phones and everything and it is instant gratification. Everything comes in the work. You have to fall in love with the work.

On what he looks for in a youngster as a coach.
Heart. Then I go into how fast they are and how far they can jump. But if they don’t have the heart, it doesn’t matter. You have to train hard and be strong mentally to beat the competition.

On training Anju Bobby George
That was fun and I wish I kept working with her. (It was) in 2004, 2003 but she still had a lot more in her. She was an Olympian, had a great jumping ability and way better landing than I had. She didn’t work on her speed and I didn’t have enough time to teach her that.

On the mind games
It’s the No 1 thing. I tell my athletes that people, who have been successful in any line of work, are strong mentally and have belief beyond anything. It’s all about focus. Get a good plan together. Then make that system consistent and put in the work. No matter what it is, the work comes first.

Swap medal for record
I’ll take the world record. Carl asks me this all the time. He asked: ’Man you got that record.” And I go: ’Man you got nine gold medals, so give me a break. You want everything? So if you give me four of those medals and I get to choose the ones that I want. Then I’ll change for that.’
When people introduce me as gold medalist I say: ‘Thank you, I should have been’ but I don’t correct them because I got the world record. In this particular case, in long jump, the world record stands above the gold. Look at Greg Rutherford, he won the gold in 2012 and everybody is talking about him because he jumped so short. But he has something that I don’t have. That’s what bothers me, those guys getting these medals. I had to break a 20-year-old world record and beat a guy who hadn’t lost for 10 years and a guy who just finished breaking the 100M record. And when I broke the record, I didn’t know I was going to win!

On his career
I had a great and long career. Three Olympic games. I’m proud now of the way I competed and thankful for the loses which made me the person I am. That’s why I love coaching. I am good teacher but I paint a picture for them so that they can imagine it, dream and live it.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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