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Leap of Faith
Tim Layden
May 13, 1996
ONCE SUNDAYS WERE NO LONGER SACROSANCT, ENGLAND'S JONATHAN EDWARDS EXPLODED INTO THE GREATEST TRIPLE JUMPER IN HISTORY
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May 13, 1996

Leap Of Faith

ONCE SUNDAYS WERE NO LONGER SACROSANCT, ENGLAND'S JONATHAN EDWARDS EXPLODED INTO THE GREATEST TRIPLE JUMPER IN HISTORY

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He had gone to Spain in hopes of winning a medal, and his family had made meticulous plans to share in the effort. Andy and Jill arrived in Barcelona with Tim and Anna before the qualifying round of the triple jump, which took place on Saturday evening, Aug. 1. Alison would arrive that night and be driven to the stadium, where she would meet the others. They would congratulate Jonathan on reaching Monday night's final (a foregone conclusion). Then, while Jonathan went back to the Olympic Village, they would drive 140 miles to a guesthouse in the Pyrenees.

"There were even spiritual elements tied up in it," recalls Alison. "The final might normally have been on a Sunday, and Jonathan couldn't have competed, but it was a Saturday-Monday competition. We thought, This is wonderful."

But everything went wrong. As Andy sat unaccompanied in the stadium during the qualifying round (it took place on the same evening as the men's 100-meter final, so tickets were scarce), Jonathan jumped miserably and didn't make the final. Andy left the stadium stunned, even as fellow Brits celebrated Linford Christie's gold medal in the 100, and he broke the news to the others outside. "I can still see the look on Alison's face," says Andy. "She looked at me as if to say, What have we been doing these four years?" In the crush of humanity outside Olympic Stadium they couldn't find Jonathan. "We just wanted to touch him, to say, 'Hey, we love you,' " says Andy. Instead they drove through the night to their lodging, arriving exhausted and disconsolate at 2 a.m. "Five of us in the car, and I don't think a word was spoken," says Andy.

At 11 o'clock the next morning Jonathan called his family. "I talked to Alison first," he recalls. "I put on a brave face and told her that everything was all right, when of course it wasn't at all. Then my mother got on the phone, and I couldn't speak a word, with the crying in my throat."

Four years have passed. Alison and Jonathan are sitting on the carpet of their living room in Newcastle. "Hopes and dreams were shattered that night," says Alison in her light Scottish brogue. She smiles at Jonathan, who is holding Nathan in his arms. It is a smile not of celebration but of knowing and survival. In the time since Barcelona, they have grown and learned. Two children have been born. Their father has jumped impossibly far.

In the middle of the floor, Sam spreads a bath towel at his feet. "My sandpit," he chirps. Sam gathers himself, jumps onto the towel and then rises, beaming. He lifts his arms to the sky, and the bright glow from his eyes lights the room.

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