This Day In High Jumping: Dwight Stones Reflects

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This Day in High-Jumping--Dwight Stones Reflects
July 3 is a big date in the world of high-jumping. Not only were World Records set by Pat Matzdorf(7-6   1/4, 2.29m) and Vladimir Yashchenko(7-7   3/4, 2.33m) six years apart(1971-1977)   on this date, but both jumps had a major impact on another World Record holder, Dwight Stones, who shared his thoughts at the time in a recent email.

Stones first addressed   Matzdorf’s WR effort in 1971. “He jumped 7-6   1/4(2.29m) at the U.S. v USSR meet at Berkeley to eclipse Brumel's 7-5   3/4(2.28m) from the U.S. v USSR meet in Moscow on July 21, 1963, which is the day before I first started high jumping after watching it on ABC's Wide World of Sports. My girlfriend greeted me with the news about Matzdorf and I was pissed for 2 reasons. First, I was unaware somehow that the meet had been televised the previous day and I was MORE PISSED because I wanted to be the one who broke Brumel's record. Sure enough, 2 years and a week later, I was the world record holder. (Stones jumped 7-6   1/2, 2.30m) in Munich in 1973).

On to Yashchenko’s out-of-the-blue jump of 7-7   3/4(2.33m)   at the USA-USSR Junior meet in Richmond, VA in 1977. The mark eclipsed Stones’ 3rd and final WR of 7-7 1/4(2.32m).

“I was in Stockholm for a meet...and came into the reception area and don’t remember who broke the news to me.  I’ve probably repressed that person from my memory as the news was quite a shock, especially seeing as I had never HEARD of this guy, Yaschenko!  A junior, at a meet in Richmond, VA?  He goes over to MY country and breaks MY world record?  Trust me, I had a tough time accepting it as I had grown very familiar and comfortable with being the world record holder for just one week short of 4 years.”

 Never one to shy away from admitting his shortcomings, Stones touched on his brash attitude at the time, saying,   “I will also tell you that I didn’t get a lot of support or words of encouragement, even from my Pacific Coast Club teammates.  That sent a powerful message to me that maybe I hadn’t been such a great steward of the record and that people had been looking forward to this day.”   A lesson learned, Stones called it a “seminal moment in my career”.

 Turning back to the meet in Stockholm, Stones said, ”My mindset was to go right back out there and reset the record that very night, just to show that I could do it anytime I wanted to.  Problem was that it was rather cold for the DN Galan meet that evening and I ended up jumping in tights.  I cleared 7-5   3/4(2.28m) and the plan was to then go to 2.31m and get the record back at 2.34m of course.”   (Stones missed at7-7, 2/31m).”

While he never regained the World Record, Stones remained one of the world’s elite jumpers through 1984, with a couple of hiccups along the way.

“It took just under 7 years for me to finally clear 7-8(2.34m), which I did at the 1984 Olympic Trials in Los Angeles to make my 3rd Olympic Team.  That clearance was significant for a couple of reasons. First, it was my first PR in 8 years.  Second, I regained the American Record that I had lost the previous summer to World Championship silver medalist Tyke Peacock.” 

“In the 7 years since I lost the WR, I endured a suspension from the sport for participating in the “Superstars” competition, we all experienced the absurd and pointless 1980 Olympic Boycott, I got married, and we had a 15 mos. old son.

 ”I think I earned that AR like no other achievement I had during my long career in the sport.  I was 30 years old, not normally a point where high jumpers are getting lifetime bests, and I was a legitimate contender for a medal at the upcoming L.A. Games.”
Stones, the winner of the bronze medal in 1972 and 1976, just missed the trifecta in 1984, finishing 4th with a clearance of 7-7, the same height as 3rd-placer Zihu Jianhua of China, who had fewer misses. And that was much higher than the 7-3(2.21m) he had jumped at the 1972 and 1976 Olympics.