Tajay Gayle’s gold medal for Jamaica in the long jump at the IAAF World Championships of Athletics in Doha, Qatar was a surprise to everyone – except for Tajay Gayle.

Gayle knew he had big jumps in him even as he just barely made it into Saturday’s long jump final, registering 7.89 to be the last competitor to book a place.

He knew what he had to do, run faster.

On Friday during the qualification round, there was much more swirling through the 23-year-old’s head. He was overthinking. Gayle was worried about getting the mechanics right after he took off toward the pit, making sure he extended right, lent away at the right time, got the most out of his run up. But that was dragging the cart before the horse, it did not work.

“Yesterday I made a small mistake and I worried about the jump,” the history-making Jamaican told a press conference after he claimed gold on Saturday.

But Saturday was different, on Saturday, he focused on the horse.

“Today I was focused on only one thing. That was the run-up and it was working perfectly,” he said.

Gayle would put the field under pressure with his first jump, the Jamaican reaching out to 8.46 metres, a big improvement on his 8.32 personal best.

The field would never get there, but Gayle, who had two fouls after that, was not done yet.

He would reach out towards the pit on his fourth jump and find he had gone even farther, farther than anyone in that field had ever gone.

“I’m not sure what happened, but in any case, I’m very grateful. I just was faster doing my run-up,” he said simply, as if running faster could explain the heady heights he was able to reach.

But the achievement has not been lost on the young man.

“I got here, did a personal best and a Worlds’ gold” he said, indicating that his World Championships experience could not have gone any better.

“I would have loved to put a personal best under my first victory at the World Championships.”

Gayle bested a crack field, including Miguel Echevarria of Cuba, who achieved some big wind-aided results this year and should have been a shoe-in for gold. He also dethroned Luvo Mayonga of South Africa, all while jumping to a distance they had never legally done.

But to do that, Gayle had to forget his competitors, their accolades and previous achievements, and focus on being the best Tajay Gayle he could.

“I have never worried about anything else, but myself,” he said, again, simply.

Source: Paul-Andre Walker