Part-timer Marquise Goodwin is arguably Greg Rutherford’s chief rival for long jump gold in Rio and he also has his eye on the world record
Marquise Goodwin is the No.1 threat to Greg Rutherford’s Olympic title defence ambitions, but it is not as a long jumper that he is best known in his home country.
The Buffalo Bills wide receiver and returner is described on his Wikipedia page as an American footballer who is “also a long jumper”, yet he has the two longest marks in the world to his name.
Goodwin, the world junior champion in 2008, was among the favourites for the 2012 Olympic title but finished just 10th. The man who has a 100m best of 10.38 had dreamed of winning an Olympic gold and then retiring in favour of NFL.
He had a couple of years out after that to concentrate on American football, but then returned last year to what he has described as his “first love”.
This year he has reinstated himself as one of the key Olympic challengers, posting the world lead of 8.45m in May before jumping a winning 8.42m in Birmingham last month to beat, among others, an injured Rutherford.
Given how much American footballers are paid and how protective the teams can be of their stars, it is perhaps surprising that he intends to continue doing both sports.
The American football season lasts only from September to January, just outside of the international athletics competition period, but preparation and the threat of injury you might have thought would be a factor. Further, if he qualifies for Rio by being among the top three at the US trials this weekend, his participation in Brazil would apparently mean missing the first two weeks of a training camp.
“Maybe if I focused on long jump I could become a world record-holder, who knows?”
On April 1 he tweeted that he was giving up the winter sport to focus on track before later clarifying it was just April’s Fools talk.
However, in Birmingham he confirmed he did not think combining the two sports was a problem.
“A lot of the football fans don’t support it,” he said of the public in a country where athletics is a minor sport. “It’s because they don’t understand. They think it may take away from being a football player.
“If we could educate them and show them how long jump correlates to being an NFL receiver, how much more fit am I and durable I can be. Maybe they would appreciate it a little more.”
Goodwin reportedly receives a Buffalo Bills salary of £493,000 and, with such money at stake, it would be understandable if his bosses watch his Olympic build-up with at least a tinge of nervousness.
Confirming there are no clauses in his contract preventing him from doing long jump, he said: “They may be concerned. I could get injured walking down the street. I don’t live my life walking on egg shells.”
But football is his No.1 priority at the moment, he insists. He told website Vice Sports: “I know football is No.1, obviously, as I have a contractual agreement with them. But track is something that I just have to do for me. It’s not for nobody else.”
However, AW asked the 25-year-old if he ever thought of what he could achieve if he focused just on long jump? “Maybe if I focused on long jump I could become a world record-holder, who knows?” he said. “Maybe I will anyway this year. I will not set myself any limitations because I’m a two-sport athlete. That’s the cards I was dealt.”
Talk of the world record is bold as the mark, which is 40cm further than his recent PB, has stood to Mike Powell since 1991 and not many have since approached it.
“Anything is possible,” he asserted. “I’m jumping pretty well, pretty consistent. Once I get my technique down – I haven’t quite got it down yet, but I’ve been jumping far and it’s pretty consistent.”
The technique he is talking of is the two-and-a-half hitch, which his coach, Dwight Phillips, the four-time world champion, has been teaching him.
If he perfects it then who is to say he won’t become a world record-breaker? Either way, this American footballer has a great shot at Olympic gold this year.