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Smith out to prove he belongs

Job done: Smith has advanced to tonight’s long jump final

Tyrone Smith feels he has something to prove as he goes in search of a medal tonight after breezing into the long jump final at the Pan Am Games in Toronto.

Smith posted a best leap of 7.72 metres to finish fourth in his heat and eighth out of the 12 qualifiers at the Pan Am Athletics Stadium at York University yesterday.

The 30-year-old fouled his first jump but adjusted to the windy conditions and secured a spot in the medal round with his next attempt.

Jeff Henderson, the gold-medal favourite, won the heats with a jump of 8.15, while Marquise Goodwin, the Buffalo Bills wide receiver, finished second with a leap of 8.05. Goodwin had not competed since the 2012 London Olympics after being drafted by the Bills the next year.

“I’ve been predicting it will be an 8.30 kind of day for the final,” Smith said, “particularly with guys like Jeff Henderson and Marquise Goodwin, who has just come back from the NFL and shown us all how it’s done.

“I figure that a jump of around 8.20 could be enough to win a medal, and I feel confident of doing that. It’s just about making sure I’m in the fight.”

Smith has beaten each of tonight’s finalists on at least one occasion, but believes he still has to convince his rivals that he belongs at the elite level.

The Houston-based athlete has never produced his best form when it really mattered at a major international competition, finishing tenth at the London Olympics, twelfth at last summer’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, while he failed to qualify for the finals at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

“I feel like I still have to prove a lot to the jumpers out there,” he said. “We’re all friends, we’re all peers, but for the past couple of years I haven’t jumped what I’m capable of doing. This year I feel like I’m back to my top form.

“I’ve known I can jump far all along, but I feel I need to show the other guys I belong here. That’s why I’ve been on such as campaign in the Diamond League and World Challenge meets, just to say to these guys, ‘hey, don’t forget about me’.”

Rather than risk an injury and jeopardise his place in the final, Smith wasted no time in zipping on his Bermuda tracksuit as soon as he was certain of qualification.

It was a smart move by Smith, who watched Damar Forbes, of Jamaica, twist his ankle in his third and final jump, despite having already qualified for tonight’s competition. Forbes, who is coached by Dwight Phillips, the 2004 Athens Olympics gold-medal winner, is now a doubt for tonight.

“If I’d have jumped that third attempt I know I could have got over eight [metres], but it wasn’t necessary,” he said. “I was running back and forth to the computer just to make sure I was in there. The last thing I wanted is for a few guys to pass me on the last jump and leave me in thirteenth position.

“Damar Forbes, a good friend of mine, decided to take the last jump and he turned his ankle.

“Once you’ve got the number you need it’s time to pack up and go home.”

Smith jumps in tonight’s final at 7pm, Bermuda time. Also in action in athletics tomorrow are Shaquille Dill and Aaron Evans in the heats of the 800 metres.