Revolutionary triple jumper share three tips for Olympic hopefuls
About Willie Banks
Willie Banks is a retired American athlete. Born at Travis Air Force Base, California, he grew up in San Diego County and went to Oceanside High School. He was a track & field athlete competing in the triple jump. On June 16, 1985 he set a world record of 17.97 m (58 feet 11.5 inches) at the national championships in Indianapolis, Indiana, USA. He finished second in the NCAA Championships in 1977 and 1978.
He later broke the American record in 1981 and was a member of the 1980, 1984, and 1988 Olympic teams. He participated on the 1983 and 1987 World Championship teams. He was awarded the Track & Field News and United States Olympic Committee Athlete of the Year in 1985. He served USA Track & Field as chair of the Athletes Advisory Committee in addition to serving as an organization vice president.
Banks will always be remembered as one of the most animated athletes to compete in track and field. He is the originator of the now common hand clapping that takes place during many track and field events. His exuberant personality was also present in his jumping. He has been reported as laughing during some of his jumps. When he set the world record of 17.97 m at the 1985 USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships, his attention seemed more intent on completing his jump in order to cheer for teammate Claudette Groenendaal who was completing her 800 metres on the track adjacent to the runway at the same time. He held that record for over ten years until Jonathan Edwards broke it for the first time in 1995 with 17.98m. He also jumped 18.20m at Indianapolis in 1988, but this was assisted by an illegal 5.2 m/s wind.
He is still competing, clearing an impressive 14.00m to head the 2006 world masters rankings in the 50–54 age group, just 7 cm behind that age-group's world record. He won the 2007 World Masters Athletics Championships in that same age group. He was inducted into the USA National Track & Field Hall of Fame in 1999. Banks was President of the US Olympians Association from 2005 to 2008.
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