Flying High With Jesse Williams

World Champion Looks to Get Back on Top of the Podium

In 2011, American high jumper Jesse Williams was golden. The Oregon Track Club Elite standout won World Championship gold in his event, won another U.S. title and continued to show up big when it mattered most. While 2012 wasn't quite as glorious, the former USC star made the Olympic finals and continued to show why he was one of the best in the world on any given day.

After a devastating injury that took him out of much of the 2013 season, Williams returned to competition this season simply looking to get back to . He ended the season with a 2.29m best, well off his 2.37m PR, but a good step forward. Healthy and focused into the off-season, we took some time to chat with Williams on his recent season, what lies ahead and much more.

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Portland Track (PT): The 2014 season wrapped up a few weeks ago. Reflecting back, how do you feel about your 2014 season? What went right and what went wrong?

Jesse Williams (JW): In May of 2013, I had a bad injury in my jumping foot (complete tear of the anterior tibiofibular ligament) and really could not do much on it for quite sometime. Last year the foot was still bothering me but made great progress that I am pleased with. With 2014 being a non championship season, I wanted to emphasize on getting my foot back to 100%.  

In January of 2014 I could not jump 6-3 (1.90m) in practice and ended up with a season best of 7-6 (2.29m) and a foot that no longer had any pain. I am happy with the progress and where I am currently at. I am however upset that I was not able to jump a bit higher. As a competitor I always want to do better.

PT: The high jump leapt to another level (pun intended) this year. How much motivation do you pull away from seeing so much talent up front really challenging records?

JW: The high jump is extremely mental. It is hard to put a percentage on it but sometimes I feel like it is 100%.  With people jumping these mind blowing heights it opens the door for others, like myself, into believing anything is possible. I am extremely motivated and want to excel to a new level next year, now that I am finally healthy.  I have always believed that I can jump 2.40m (7-10.5), which is currently the American record, and if I can do that at a championship medals, even gold, are a definite possibility which is all the motivation I need to work and make it happen.  

PT: What do you feel you need to do in order to get back to the top of the high jump world? You won World gold only three years ago - so you have to be chomping at the bit to get back up there, right?

JW: Winning the World Championships in 2011 was a dream come true. It was an honor to win such a high achievement for the greatest country in the world. I feel that a healthy, more mature and newly me can get back on top to the level I want to compete at.  No regrets this year, hard work pays off.  One thing of many I am trying to do is lose 10 pounds. I currently weigh 183 pounds and want to be constantly in the low 170's. The lighter you are the higher you can jump if you are maintaining the same strength levels.  

PT: You’ve lived and trained in Eugene for quite a while now. What makes OTC Elite and Eugene so special?

JW: Eugene is the best place in the USA by far for track and field. Nothing else compares to it. The number of knowledge filled fans makes for a great environment to compete in. Putting on a green OTC uniform, and now that I have lived here for over seven years, I automatically become a fan favorite. That makes it a pleasure to compete at Hayward field. The Olympic Trials are here in Eugene in 2016, what a beautiful two weekends of track and field that will be!

PT: If you could compete at a world class level in another track and field event outside of the high jump, which one would you choose and why?

JW: I am a jumper at heart and would have to say the triple jump. I did some long jumping in college at University of Southern California and loved it but always wanted to try the triple jump. It is such a great measure of pure athleticism and seems like a fun event to train for.  

PT: It’s the off-season now. What does your day look like when you aren't training? What do you do to fill your time?

JW: I am currently the landlord of six tenants. There is always something to do with the houses I own and the one that I live in. I do all the management myself. I am currently remodeling my kitchen and its really coming together. I love home improvement and like to work hard so its the perfect thing for me to do in my downtime.

PT: Away from training and competing, do you have any hobbies?

JW: I like to go on hikes and do anything outdoors when I can, such as fishing or hunting. It does not happen as much as I like but when am able to do such things I enjoy it to the fullest.  

PT: Okay, you won't compete for a few more months now, but 2015 isn't that far off. Looking ahead just a touch, what are your expectations for yourself for next season?

JW: I have already written some personal goals for the year that I look forward to achieving. The biggest of them being that I want to jump a personal best or take jumps at a personal best at the World Championships in Beijing, China. If I can do this then everything else wont matter. The last time I did that I won.

Photo by the IAAF Diamond League

Photo by the IAAF Diamond League