Beckford still excited by Gayle
James Beckford, Jamaica’s first World Championships long jump medal winner, was delighted to see Tajay Gayle become world champion last year.
Beckford believes Gayle can jump even further if he stays focused.
When Gayle jumped 8.69 metres to win the title in Doha, Qatar, it broke Beckford’s long-standing national record of 8.62m.
Speaking recently from his home in Germany, Beckford, the 1995 and 2003 World silver medallist said, “First of all, I always believe records were made to be broken and I set that trend in the field events, long jump. I was always praying and hoping to see someone follow in my footsteps.”
The long jump pioneer watched Gayle’s Doha final with friends and shared that he was extremely excited when the deed was done.
“I was like yes, there it is, world champion. I was excited. I was very, very, very happy to see my record broken, absolutely. I was very happy,” Beckford said, still celebrating.
He first spotted Gayle on the European circuit and was immediately impressed.
“Whoa, this kid is going to do it. He’s so talented. He has so much potential, so much stuff he can improve on because I’ve seen the way he jumps. He’s going to jump farther than this,” the 45-year-old Olympic runner-up enthused.
“I see so much of me in him. He’s a very humble guy, very humble, shy, and if he stays grounded, this is just a stepping stone,” said Beckford, who also offered a word of advice to the youngster.
“Stay focused and remember what it takes to get there because this is just the start of it. If you want to last long in the sport, stay humble and just work hard.”
Beckford is still jumping himself, and has enjoyed great success in Masters competition. He has taken gold medals outdoors at the World Masters in 2015 and 2018 and added an indoor title last year.
Asked why he is still competing, the St Ann native explained that it was a passion of his.
“Sports is like a passion because I started sports when I was six years old. I started with gymnastics, acrobatics in Jamaica and, you know, I just love sport, I just love being active. It’s something that I love.”
Nevertheless, there is still some surprise when Beckford steps on to the runway.
“They’re surprised to see someone of my stature, of my accomplishments, still there, and I say it’s the passion of the sport. I’m still here and they like it as well,” said Beckford.