Williams Wins World High Jump Title
Sept. 1, 2011
Former USC track star Jesse Williams won the gold medal in the high jump today (Sept. 1) at the 13th IAAF World Outdoor Track and Field Championships being held in Daegu, South Korea. In addition, former Trojan and 2004 Olympic gold medalist Felix Sanchez placed fourth in the men's 400m IH.
Williams, the current world leader at 7-9.5 (2.37m), went clean through his winning height of 7-8.5 (2.35m) to claim the title, the first by an American high jumper since Charles Austin won the gold at the 1991 World Championships in Tokyo, Japan, snapping the USA's 20-year drought in the event. Williams' victory broke a sequence of Russian championship successes which has brought the Olympic (Andrey Silnov), World (Yaroslav Rybakov), World Indoor (Ivan Ukhov) and European championship (Aleksandr Shustov) titles in the past three years.
"It felt great! I got the W, and I was in the zone the entire time," said Williams. "I knew that if I could execute my plan, I could win. I turned my back and didn't look at anyone else's jump. It was a dream come true for me to win. It's been a long road for me from North Carolina to USC and to Eugene."
"I love working hard, and I'm a fighter," added Williams.. "I knew that if I could put it all together, I could win a world championship. I'm really going to enjoy this moment and have some fun tonight. I'm a real student of the sport and I'm aware that twenty years ago, Charles Austin won in Tokyo, and I knew I could relive what he lived through today. If I could get through the qualifying rounds, I could be in a position to win it."
During his USC career, Williams won the 2005 and 2006 NCAA indoor and outdoor high jump titles and established the USC school record with a clearance of 7-7.25 (2.32m). He also won the Pac-10 high jump titles in 2005 and 2006 and was named the 2006 U.S. Track and Field/Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) Men's Field Co-Athlete of the Year.
"In the programs that I've run, I've had some very good, world-class high jumpers that have gone 7-7 or 7-8 which includes Dwight Stones who was instrumental in Jesse coming to USC," said USC Director of Track and Field Ron Allice. "None of those athletes except Dwight possessed all of the qualities you could possibly want in an athlete like Jesse Williams. His ability to go clean through all the heights. I've never had anyone in the program who was more of a competitor that had all the qualities both mentally and physically with a burning desire and competitive spirit as great as Jesse. That's why we are all so happy for him. He is a true student of his craft. He's very special. A Jesse Williams does not come around very often. He makes the Trojan family very proud. Like I've said before, the tradition and history in track and field at USC is second to none."
"It's big for our program, but first and foremost I congratulate Jesse," added USC's jumps coach Mike Pullins. "He's proven that hard work and persistence pays off. My text to him this morning was simply, you made the old coach proud. Without a doubt, he stands alone as the best gameday competitor I have ever coached. If I could bottle that competitiveness and sell it, I'd make millions...he's a gamer."
Later in the day, the 34-year-old Sanchez took fourth place in the men's 400m IH with a time of 48.87 while competing for his native Dominican Republic. He missed by .07 seconds of capturing the bronze medal. What made Sanchez' race even more impressive is that after two false starts, he was quoted as saying he got out too aggressively and had to take most of the hurdles off his opposite leg.