Cuban nearly long jumps out of sand pit with best mark in 23 years (video)

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Cuban 19-year-old Juan Miguel Echevarria unleashed the farthest long jump under any conditions in 23 years, leaping 8.83 meters (29 feet, 11 1/2 inches) at a Diamond League meet in Stockholm on Saturday.

It would have been the fifth-best jump of all time (Mike Powell‘s world record from 1991 is 8.95) if not for too much tailwind. Echevarria jumped with 2.1 meters/second wind in his favor. The maximum allowable tailwind for record purposes is 2.0 meter/second.

Echevarria must settle for having the farthest jump under any conditions since countryman Ivan Pedroso‘s controversial 8.96-meter jump at altitude in the Italian Alps in 1995 that would have been a world record. Italian media quickly questioned Pedroso’s jump, reporting a man standing in front of the wind gauge on the Cuban’s attempts.

There were 60 long jumps and triple jumps at that meet, and 56 exceeded the maximum allowable wind for record purposes. Three of the four legal jumps were Pedroso’s, including the “record” jump at 1.2 meters per second, according to 1995 reports.

Italy’s track and field federation didn’t even bother submitting the jump to the sport’s international governing body for world record ratification, given the circumstances.

STOCKHOLM: Full meet results

Back to Echevarria. He won the world indoor title on March 2 and on Sunday beat both Olympic champion Jeff Henderson from the U.S. and world outdoor champion Luvo Manyonga of South Africa.

The Diamond League takes a 20-day break before the next meet in Paris. The USATF Outdoor Championships are next for top Americans from June 21-24.

In other events Sunday, Olympic 100m hurdles champion Brianna McNeal clocked the fastest time since July 4, winning in 12.38 seconds. The field did not include world-record holder Kendra Harrison or world champion Sally Pearson of Australia.

Armand Duplantis, the recent Lafayette (La.) high school graduate who pole vaults for Sweden, beat world champion Sam Kendricks for the first time in seven head-to-heads. Duplantis cleared 5.86 meters, while Kendricks came in second at 5.81. World-record holder and 2012 Olympic champion Renaud Lavillenie holds the best clearance in the world this year of 5.95, but the Frenchman wasn’t in Sunday’s field.

Jamaican Fedrick Dacres won a discus that included the top five men in the world this year. Dacres threw 69.67 meters, the world’s farthest mark since last June 29.

Bahamian Steven Gardiner, who ranks No. 2 in the 400m and No. 3 in the 200m this year, stumbled coming around the turn of the 200m and stopped, taking off his left shoe while being attended to. World champion Ramil Guliyev of Turkey won in 19.92 seconds, shy of the 2018 world lead of 19.69 shared by South African Clarence Munyai and American Noah Lyles.

In the 1500m, American Jenny Simpson aimed for her first Diamond League win in three years, but nobody could hang with Ethiopian Gudaf Tsegay, who clocked a meet record 3:57.64 and won by .89 of a second over Brit Laura Muir. Simpson was fourth.

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VIDEO: Wrong barrier height causes chaos in Oslo steeplechase

Simone Biles returns to the gym, going from mental drain to physical pain

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For Simone Biles, this was supposed to be the stretch run of a legendary career.

Instead, she returned to her gym on May 18 with long-term thoughts of waiting 14 months until the Tokyo Olympics. And the immediate aches of a world-class gymnast who just missed nearly two months of regular training.

“After that amount of time off, it kind of sucks because your body hurts and then you get really sore,” Biles said in a pre-recorded ESPNW interview that aired Thursday. “So you just have to get back into the swing of things. But it felt nice to see my coaches, my teammates, and just to be back on the equipment and in the environment.”

In that same Texas gym three months ago, Biles had a far different outlook. One that would have put fear into any gymnast who still harbored ambition of ending her near-seven-year win streak.

“I never felt more ready this early in the season,” she said. “I was so ready for the Olympics to be this year.”

Biles repeated in interviews the last two months that the Olympic postponement to 2021 was devastating. Thoughts zig-zagged: How do I go on another year, at age 23, in a sport recently dominated by (but not limited to) teenagers?

“I’m getting pretty old,” she said in the interview published Thursday. “Will I be at the top of my game?”

Biles proved the last two years — after a year off — that she can win — and comfortably — while not at her best. She grabbed the 2018 World all-around title by a record margin — with two falls. Last year, she became the most decorated gymnast in world championships history. In Tokyo, she can become the first woman to repeat as Olympic all-around champion, and the only one older than 20, in more than 50 years.

This for a gymnast whose early goal was to earn a college scholarship. Biles did, to UCLA, but had to give it up by turning professional.

“So I’ve exceeded that,” Biles said. “And then I wanted to go to world championships and Olympics, and I’ve been to five worlds and one Olympic Games. So, I’d be more than happy [to walk away].”

After gymnastics, Biles has another goal — to be a voice for foster kids. She was in foster care multiple times before being adopted at age 6 by grandparents Ron and Nellie.

Those plans, along with so much else for Biles and so many others, have been pushed back a full year.

“I was already being mentally drained and almost, not done with the sport, but just going into the gym and feeling tired and being like, OK, I’m going to get my stuff [done], get out,” she said. “We have this one end goal, and now that it’s postponed another [year], it’s just like, how are we going to deal with that? We’re already being drained, and so it’s to keep the fire in the sport within yourself alive.”

MORE: Top U.S. gymnasts disagree with Tokyo Olympic age rule

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2022 Pan Pacific Championships canceled as swimming calendar shifts

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The Pan Pacific Swimming Championships, a quadrennial major international meet, will not be held in 2022 “out of respect for the recent changes to the international sporting calendar,” according to a press release.

The Pan Pacs’ charter nations — the U.S., Australia, Canada and Japan — agreed to the move. The 2026 event will be held in Canada, which was supposed to be the 2022 host.

The decision came after the 2021 World Championships were moved to May 2022, following the Tokyo Olympics moving from 2020 to 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic. The quadrennial multi-sport Commonwealth Games — which includes Australia and Canada, but not the U.S. or Japan — are scheduled for July 27-Aug. 7, 2022.

“Organizing a third major championships in that window presented several challenges,” according to the Pan Pacs release.

Pan Pacs mark the third-biggest major international meet for U.S. swimmers, held in non-Olympic, non-world championships years.

MORE: Caeleb Dressel co-hosts a podcast. It’s not about swimming.

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