Beijing Stories: Dwight Phillips, Ambassador of sport, by Elliott Denman

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Anyone who knows squat about athletics knows about Dwight Phillips, five time World Champion at the long jump, and a man who has much to contribute to our current crop of athletes and coaches. Here is a piece on the new IAAF Ambassador by our long time writer, Elliott Denman.

Phillips_Dwight1b-IAAF13.jpgDwight Phillips, IAAF Gala, 2013, photo by PhotoRun.net

DWIGHT PHILLIPS
By ELLIOTT DENMAN
BEIJING - Beijing and its Bird's Nest Stadium do not resonate well with Dwight Phillips.
After claiming the long jump gold at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games, he never did get to the
Chinese capital to defend his Olympic title. A fourth place in the 2008 USA Trials leaves a sour taste in his mouth all these years later.
And he never did get to give it another Olympic go in 2012.
London was no longer a possibility after a car smash-up left him with major back and neck injuries.
But the Arizona State University graduate, who started collegiately at Kentucky, did virtually all else that was possible in his incredibly successful career that included no less than six globally golden moments.
Beyond that Athens 2004 Olympic gold, he won it all at the World Outdoor Championships
of Paris (2003), Helsinki (2005), Berlin (2009) and Daegu (2011), all this on top of the
World Indoor crown he collected at Birmingham, England in 2003.
Only Ivan Pedroso of Cuba tops him in the all-time LJ hardward department.
Unfortunately undersung in the USA, Ivan was Terrible to all who got in his way,
Taking no less than five World Indoor golds (everything from 1993 to 2001), four World Outdoor
Golds (Goteborg 1995, Athens 1997, Seville 1999 and Edmonton 2001), all this on top of the
2000 Olympic gold at Sydney.
Even with his four Olympic golds, everything from LA in 1984 to Atlanta 1996, plus
the World Outdoor titles of 1983 Helsinki and 1987 Rome, Carl Lewis only equals the
Phillips total of six global ttiles.
As for Mike Powell, still the world record-holder with his 8.95 at Tokyo in 1991, plus the 1993 crown at Stuttgart, he's still mired in just those two world titles.
Phillips_DwightQ1a-Moscow13.JPGDwight Phillips, Moscow 2013, photo by PhotoRun.net
Thus, there is absolutely no questioning of Dwight Phillips' credentials as one of the greatest of the greats ever to sprint down the runways and plop himself down in the globe's most prestigious
sand pits.
Those 2008 regrets have been set aside.
He's here in the Chinese capital as an official "Ambassador" of the International Association of
Athletics Federations.
His ambassadorial duties: "To educate athletes how they can (cleanly, needless to say) be the best they possibly can be, to liason with everybody, to promote the sport in every possible way."
In short, anything and everything.
And, back home in the USA, he serves as chairman of USATF Athletes Advisory Committee.
"I represent the collective voice of all the athletes," he tells you.
"Every day there's something else to get involved in."
He also tells you that National 800 champion Nick Symmonds never bothered giving his gripe (over official attire) to the AAC before he went so very public with his demands, and subsequent ouster from the Beijing team roster.
"The very first time I heard about that whole (Symmonds) thing was when I read about it in the newspaper, " said Phillips.
And how does he prognosticate the Beijing long jump (trials Monday morning, finals
Tuesday night)?
"Obviously, I would love to see a USA sweep (in any order, as long as the three on the podium are named Marquis Dendy, Jeff Henderson or Mike Hartfield.)
"But realistically that's going to be pretty tough to happen."
He knows that Great Britain's Greg Rutherford, the reigning Olympic champion,
has been having a superlatively good year and will be a tough nut for any of the
Americans to crack.
And don't discount Zarck Visser of South Africa or Rushwai Samaai of Saudi Arabia, either.
Powell's 8.95 WR (29-2 ½) has now lasted 25 years, and that in turn now matches the
quarter-century that Jesse Owens' epic 8.13 (26-8 ½) of 1935 stayed in the books until topped by
Ralph Boston in 1960.
How do world records happen?
Talent, happenstance and simple good fortune, for starters.
"That was definitely one of my big regrets, that I never go it (the WR)," he said.
"The most perfect jump of my life came at the Prefontaine meet in 2009," said Phillips.
"I went 8.74 (28-8 1/4) and I did it into a negative 1.2 headwind. Everything went great otherwise. That could have been my day.
" Without that headwind, I probably would be the world record holder right now."
But I was what it was and Phillips settled for a PR win.
All these years later, that puts him, equal fifth on the all-time charts, back of Powell, Bob Beamon (8.90 / 29-2 1/2), Carl Lewis (8.87 / 29-1 1/4) and Russia's Robert Emmityan (8.86 / 29-1.)
In that fifth-place deadlock with him are USA's Larry Myricks and Erick Walder.
No doubts about it, "Ambasador" Dwight Phillips has been there, done that.
And he has the portfolio to prove it.
Hello there, John Kerry.
Hello there, U.S. State Department.
Anyone listening?

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