Phillips’ win revives Owens’ legacy

Dwight Phillips hit bottom at the end of 2008.

Injuries killed his chances to defend his 2004 Olympic title in the long jump. He had invested heavily in the real estate market, and it crashed. He allowed himself to get so out of shape that Loren Seagrave, the man who began to coach Phillips in 2009, told Track & Field News the jumper’s problem was, “Fat don’t fly.”

At 31, with two world titles and the Olympic gold, it was apparently over for Phillips as an athlete, maybe time to use his communications degree from Arizona State to help support his wife and 3-year-old son.

“They had pretty much written my obituary, and the undertaker had taken out my organs,” Phillips said.


The coaching change revived Phillips’ career almost immediately.

He dropped from 198 to 172 pounds.

His first result of the season was so good it convinced Phillips he would add another world title to those he won in 2003 and 2005.

When he did it Saturday night with a leap of 28 feet 1/4 inch, Phillips would take part in reviving the life of Jesse Owens, who had won the long jump at Berlin’s Olympic Stadium in 1936.


Owens’ granddaughter, Marlene Dortch, presented Phillips with his gold medal.

“That’s just history looking at me in the face,” Phillips said. “I was so honored to represent the JO symbol we are wearing on our uniform.”

-- Philip Hersh