Phillips completes leap of faith
When he was 14, the USA’s Dwight Phillips had been knocked down by a motorbike, leaving him with two broken legs. The doctors who treated him thought the fractures were so bad that young Phillips may never walk again. Their gloomy prognosis fell on deaf ears and proved ill-founded He not only learned to walk again; over the next decade he went on to become a world-class long jumper.
Phillips timed his run-up to the Athens Games with perfection. The year before he had won both the indoor and outdoor world titles and in the months before the Olympics, he recorded the six best jumps of the year.
The question was whether Phillips could maintain his momentum all the way to the top of the podium. He led from the front during qualifying, confirming himself as the athlete to beat.
With his first attempt in the final he put down a marker with a jump of 8.59m that surpassed the gold medal-winning distances at the previous two Games. He fouled his next two jumps, but it was of little consequence.
Spain's Joan Limo Martínez jumped 8.32m in the second round, while John Moffitt of the USA leaped 8.47m in the fifth round, which was the closest anyone came to Phillips' mark. The man who had one been told he might never walk again had won Olympic gold.