Published on September 2nd, 2011 | by Alan Abrahamson1
Dwight Phillips’ “1111″ destiny
DAEGU, South Korea — Fate is a funny thing. When he got here, Dwight Phillips was randomly assigned bib number “1111.”
Maybe, if you believe in these things, it wasn’t so random.
Three times a world champion already, a win here would make — obviously — four. And there it was, spelled out on that bib. Four one’s in a row. “Divine intervention,” Phillips said.
With a second jump Friday night of 8.45 meters, or 27 feet, 8 3/4 inches, Phillips got that fourth championship. In so doing, he staked his claim as one of the finest long-jump champions in American history.
Bob Beamon. Mike Powell. Carl Lewis. These are names that are part not just of U.S. sports history but of American culture.
Of course, the fact is that all three of those gentlemen competed at a time when track and field occupied a very different place in the American sports firmament.
Beamon threw down his insane jump in Mexico City in 1968; Powell, the all-time jump in Tokyo 20 years ago; Lewis, that memorable last Olympic leap in Atlanta in 1996.
It’s Dwight Phillips’ lot that he is jumping now, when he has to fight for air time on ESPN with football, football and more football.
It’s Dwight Phillips’ fortune that, if Joe Fan were picked out of a crowd in the United States and asked to name somebody famous in track and field, the likely two answers would be Carl Lewis or Usain Bolt, and one of those guys is Jamaican.
It’s Dwight Phillips’ predicament that, on the night that he won a fourth championship, to go along with the Olympic title he won in 2004, some number of the American writers here seemed way more interested in whether Allyson Felix, who got a bronze Friday night in the 200 to go along with the silver she won earlier here in the 400, was going to attempt the same double next year in London at the Olympics. Moreover, the four Americans in Friday night’s shot put final — none won a medal, and that created a buzz, too.
What’s Dwight Phillips supposed to do about any of that?
Nothing, he figures, but be himself — gracious in victory and, when it’s the case, in defeat as well.
“I’m a very positive person,” he said. “LIfe for me is about being happy and smiling. I think I just enjoy winning and I know how to deal with losing. Some people can’t fathom losing. It kind of crushes them when they do. Me — I embrace defeat just as I do victory.”
When you lose, he said, “Obviously you’re mad. You’re angry at yourself. But then — it’s only track and field. It’s only a track meet. There are so many more important things in life than athletics, and I try to keep things in perspective. Life is precious. You only live one time. I think you should live it with a smile.”
And when you win, he said, and now he had a big smile, “It’s euphoric.”
Phillips knew losing and winning just this year.
At the U.S. championships, he finished tenth. Dreadful. He didn’t even make the final.
That’s what happens when you’re hurt — a woeful left Achilles tendon. But, he said, he knew that if he could get himself healthy, and stay healthy, he could deliver here. “It’s not how you respond in victory,” he said. “It’s how you respond in defeat.”
Let’s face it. At championships, Dwight Phillips is money.
The 2003 worlds — gold. The 2004 Olympics — gold. The 2005 worlds — gold. The 2007 worlds — bronze. The 2009 worlds — gold.
Here, in qualifying, he jumped a season’s-best 8.32, or 27-3 3/4, to lead the field.
In his first jump in the final, he went 8.31, 27-3 1/4. That was exactly the same distance he went in his qualifying jump in Athens in 2004. At this point, who wants to believe this stuff was all random? With all these omens? “It was déja vù all over again,” Phillips said.
The second jump, that 8.45, nailed the gold.
“I came into this competition — I wasn’t even picked to make the final,” he said, and that’s true, publications such as Britain’s Athletics Weekly noting that Phillips had “been in indifferent form.”
Maybe that was a typographical error. As he proved yet again, at the worlds Dwight Phillips is, indeed, in different form.
“When it comes to long jump, over the last decade, I think it’s about longevity — if you compete over numerous years,” he said. “And over the last decade, I’ve held it down for the USA. I’ve done my best to represent us well with integrity. I’m so grateful that I can even be mentioned [along] with those great athletes,” meaning Lewis, Powell and Beamon.
“I admire them all so much.”
Do you ever wish, he was asked, that you could go back in time — to jump against each or all of them?
“Yeah, yeah. Oh, man, that would have been amazing. Every era has their own athlete. And this era belongs to Dwight Phillips.”