A conversation about jumping, basketball and long flights with Olympian JuVaughn Harrison
The first man to go above 2.30m in the high jump while also jumping at least 8.40m in the long jump also survived 10 minutes of Zooming with the I-5 Corridor.
Look, The I-5 Corridor hasn’t exactly turned into the go-to outlet for track & field coverage here in our two years of existence. Still, when the folks from the Prefontaine Classic reached out over the weekend to offer up a few minutes with Olympian JuVaughn Harrison in advance of this weekend’s meet, I couldn’t come up with a viable reason to say no.
The best thing about this job is when a random Wednesday becomes a day where you unexpectedly get to talk to someone really good at what they do. And Harrison, who I wasn’t aware of until this week, is fascinating. He qualified for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in the high jump and the long jump, and it’s mesmerizing the way he’s able to get his 6-foot-4 frame to float through the air in two distinctively different events.
He’s fresh off a silver medal in the high jump at the World Athletic Championships in Budapest and enters the final meet of the Diamond League calendar not looking to place second again.
“My motivation is that I want to win,” the 24-year-old said. “I don’t want to end my season on a loss.”
Here’s our conversation about learning to fly, the reaction to Noah Lyles’ comments on world titles and the difference between the high and long jumps.
What’s the best part about being a high jumper?
The best part about being a high jumper I guess, to me, would be the look people get on their face when they ask me how high I jump.1 They look like they're shocked and they don't believe it. And then they have to go look it up to see if I'm lying. Right? I say that's probably one of the best parts about being a high jumper. And then just overall competition is always great. I always say this: sprinters and jumpers are a little different. I feel like jumpers talk to each other more, like we're cooler with each other. But that's because we have to jump, then go sit down and wait, wait, wait, wait and then jump again. Whereas sprinters you got to lock in. You can't talk to the person next to you because everybody's locked in on what they got to do. They're not there to be friends.
Do you feel like you’re jumping against a number or against the competition?
It’s a little bit of both. You obviously want to cement yourself and make yourself as well known as possible, so the numbers are important. But again, it’s competition, so you do have to focus on the fact that you’re competing against other people. I’d say it’s a good balance of both.
Do you remember the first time the high jump felt like it clicked for you?
It was the New Balance Indoor Nationals. That’s when it first started to click. That’s when I first went over 7-feet in the high jump. That was my senior year of high school, when everything started to click.
When in your life off the track does having the skills you have come in handy?
That makes sense. You a good hooper?
I like to think so. I’m good for some one that hoops recreationally. I’m a good recreational hooper. I like to give respect: I’m not saying I’m on a level of a NBA player or guys who train like in the G League, but I do feel like I could definitely get a point or two for sure. I have a lot of confidence in myself but I would never say I’m better than those people.
Is there a lot of pressure on you as the guy in the gym who has a lot of hops?
Yes and no. When I go and play pickup I’m either playing with my friends or I’m playing with people who know me. So they know I have a career. They know I’m not going to do too much. I’m probably going to lag back a little bit and I’m just going to be out here having fun because I can’t afford an injury.
What did you make of the news cycle out of the World Championships with Noah Lyles’ comments about world titles and basketball?