Ngonidzashe Makusha as the Next Great Jumper/Sprinter?

Before Ngonidzashe Makusha’s breakout performance at the 2011 NCAA Championships, I read about the Zimbabwean in passing a few days earlier, while doing some research on the fastest 100m dash sprinters of non-West African descent.

Read the IAAF article on the NCAA Championships here

Makusha joined the illustrious company of Carl Lewis and Jesse Owens as double gold winners of both the long jump and the 100m dash, according to an IAAF report. Trailing at third place on the fourth round, the 24-year old leaped 8.40m to seal the deal. It was the fourth-longest jump in NCAA history, according to the same IAAF report. The junior from Florida State followed up his victory in the horizontal jump with a record-breaking performance in the century dash.

Makusha ran at a blistering pace on the Des Moines track, despite trailing behind three other athletes at the first half of the race. By sixty-meters, Makusha put on a dazzling display of speed as he overtook the early leaders. His performance – from the way he lagged at the start to his fast finish – was reminiscent of the great Lewis, according to the NBC announcers. The Zimbabwean stopped the clock at 9.89s, breaking Ato Boldon’s long-standing collegiate record. Mookie Salaam (9.97s) and Maurice Mitchell (10.00s) finished second and third.

Since Carl Lewis, I have not encountered a jumper-sprinter athlete of note. Lewis, with bests of 8.87m in the long jump and 9.86s in the century dash was certainly in a class of his own. Being a nine-time Olympic gold medalist (including four consecutive wins in the long jump), Lewis is the stuff of legend. Makusha’s 8.40m and 9.89s bests in the aforesaid events place high on the all-time lists.

View the 100m dash all-time list here

View the Long Jump all-time list here

Not since Lewis have we seen a male athlete win medals in both the long jump and the century dash. Aside from Lewis, Dwight Phillips (8.74m, 10.06s) is the only jumper-sprinter who has significant standing in the all-time lists. But then again, the 2004 Athens Olympic Champion has not broken 10 seconds. Andrew Howe (8.47m, 10.26s) certainly has the jumping and sprinting talent reminiscent of a Lewis, but he had been plagued by injury the past few years, and only recently competed in the sprints. Until I reinforce my facts with solid research, it is best to note (for now) that Makusha is perhaps the most potent jumper-sprinter combo since Lewis.

It’s a long shot to preempt the outcome of Makusha’s career. One cannot preclude, much less predict, greatness. But it certainly looks promising, considering the fact that he placed fourth at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The 100m dash is potentially troublesome for Makusha, as sub-9.80 performances become more common. Having good personal bests doesn’t automatically translate into top notch performance in the major championships. Nevertheless, it is interesting to find out how Makusha’s blossoming career turns out.

The World Championships this August will be his acid test.

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