By The Associated Press
LONDON — Former Ole Miss standout Brittney Reese won the long jump at the London Games on Wednesday night, becoming only the second U.S. woman to win the event at the Olympics.
The two-time world champion from Gulfport went into the competition with the best jump of the season and put down the best mark in the final with 7.12 meters on her second attempt. She is first U.S. woman to win the Olympic long jump since Jackie Joyner-Kersee in 1988.
Russia’s Elena Sokolova took the silver medal with a best jump of 7.07 meters, and Janay Deloach earned the bronze for the United States at 6.89.
Three years after Hurricane Katrina devastated her hometown, Reese hoped to give Gulfport a medal in the Beijing Games.
She came up short, and was crushed.
“When I placed fifth, I was devastated and cried the whole way back to the (athletes) village,” she said. “I had the whole Gulf Coast behind me … I wanted to come out there and do that for them.”
She delivered four years later with a long-awaited gold medal in the long jump. She repeatedly recalled the struggles her family had been through after Katrina, which produced rains that collapsed the roof on her home and displaced the family for several months.
“We had mold and we were living out of mobile homes and trailers,” she said. “It was a tough time and unless you realize how blessed you are to have neccessities — we didn’t have hot water, and it was hot and we didn’t have air conditioning. It was a real true eye-opener and my city is now rebuilt and we have most of the stuff back.
“But we don’t have a lot of the homes back. This was a great way for me to bring something home to them to show that we can all do this together.”
Reese becomes the first member of the Ole Miss track & field family to win an Olympic gold medal and the second to win an Olympic medal of any color (Tony Dees – silver, 1992). She is the fourth person in Ole Miss Athletics history to earn a gold medal (Jennifer Gillom, Peggie Gillom, Van Chancellor in women’s basketball).
Her Ole Miss career, which ended in 2008, included her being the National Field Athlete of the Year that season and SEC Field Athlete of the Year three times. She was a two-time NCAA champion, five-time All-American and five-time SEC champion in two seasons as a Rebel.
Current Ole Miss junior Isiah Young also competed at the Olympic Stadium on Wednesday, taking part in the men’s 200 meter semifinals. Running in the same heat as Usain Bolt, Young placed eighth (20.89) to conclude his first Olympic competition.
The Junction City, Kan., native had a phenomenal 2012 season that he capped by becoming the first athlete in Ole Miss history to compete in a non-hurdle sprinting event at the Olympics.
Young was the 2012 Southeastern Conference champion in the 200 meters and placed fourth in the event at the NCAA Outdoor Championships. He set the school record in both the 100 and 200 meters and was named a USTFCCCA All-American in the outdoor 100, outdoor 200 and indoor 60 meters.
olemisssports.com contributed to this report.