Charles Austin WR was ‘spur of the moment’ — 7-footer next?

Charles during record day.

Charles during record day.

Olympic high jump champ Charles Austin set an M45 world record of 6-8 3/4, we know. He was named USATF Athlete of the Week, we know. But how he set the record and how he views the jump may be the most amazing story of all. In a recent email interview, Charles graciously submitted to my usual shameless interrogation. Charles lives in San Marcos, Texas, married to Natalie, a microbiology lab supervisor at a local hospital. “My son Camron is a senior at Texas State University,” he writes. “My son Allex is at Baylor University. He was the top high school high jumper in the nation back in 2012 and was also recruited to play college basketball. He is no longer in sports due to suffering an foot injury. My youngest son, Christian, is 10 years old and showing signs of great athleticism.” And Charles? He owns a sports and fitness training business, So High Sports & Fitness. “Also, I have a new piece of fitness equipment that is getting ready to hit the market next month (in July).”

Here’s my Q&A with Sir Charles:

Masterstrack.com: When did you retire from elite competition — and when did you return as an age-grouper?  

Charles Austin: I retired in 2004 and I didn’t return. As far as me jumping the Masters 45-49 World Record, that was something I just did on the spur of the moment.

Shoes used by Charles to win Atlanta gold, which haven’t been worn since 1996 and still have grass from infield.

Three weeks prior to the meet, [former Austin coach] Sue Humphrey called me and told me about the meet and asked if I new some people who would volunteer to work it since it was in San Marcos.  

I jokingly made a comment about me coming out and breaking the world record.  She ran with that and I told her I would think about it and let her know.  

I mentioned it to my family, friends and clients and they all wanted me to break the record because most of them never seen me high jump before other than on the internet. I decided to do it the day before the meet and after jumping the record I stopped.  

The hardest part about it was trying to figure out my approach because I hadn’t practiced the high jump since 2008, when I jumped 7-1 at my gym at the age of 40.  Even then, it was just for fun.

What was your reaction to USATF Athlete of the Week honor? How did you learn about it?

I thought it was funny because there was no preparation for me jumping 6-8 3/4.  Other than getting inducted into the Hall of Fame, I never received any other honor where their was voting involved from USATF throughout my 15-year professional career.  

Other than that. it was good because so many people enjoyed seeing me do it. I learned about the honor on Wednesday when Sue Humphrey called me from Sacramento to tell me about it.

Charles’ book is available on Amazon.

How has training gone? Your best jump in practice?  

There was no real training. In that three-week period, I jumped twice from 5 steps and twice trying to figure out a full approach to use. Other than that, no preparation.

I keep my body in OK shape, but I am 195 lbs now, compared to 172 lbs when I was competing. I jumped 6-5 from 5 steps and 6-3 from the full approach. I didn’t push it at all because I didn’t want to hurt myself because I hadn’t jumped in so long.

How far will you take this masters track thing?  Compete at nationals or worlds?  

I am thinking about putting in a little training to jump 7 feet at the meet in San Marcos in July and then that will be it. If I decide to do that, I will not compete again. I know I can jump 7 if I put in a little work, basically get my full approach down.

What are your competition plans for the rest of the year?

No plans whatsoever.

What challenges (injuries, life situations) are you overcoming to compete again?

No real aches or pains. Just getting my body use to high jumping again is the challenge.

Former elites often hesitate to compete in masters for fear of “disappointing” fans or even facing ridicule. Why did you jump back into the game?  

Even when I was competing professionally, I did it only to impress myself first and foremost. This time it was more for me to have fun with my family, friends and clients.

What benefit or enjoyment do you get out of masters competition?  

No benefits whatsoever. As far as enjoyment, I knew I could break the record.  I jumped 7-10 1/2, so to me it seems only right that I should be able to jump higher than what the masters records are at.  Think about it — none of those guys jumped what I did, so it was just a matter of keeping my body in OK shape. The enjoyment came from having fun with my family, friends and clients and then seeing me break the record.

Can masters track be marketed better? If so, what should it do to grow the movement?  

They seem to have trouble marketing professional track and field here in the U.S. so marketing masters track would be tough. 

Anything else you’d like to say about your masters experience?

It was fun and now I will see how I feel for the meet in July.  If I jump, I feel I will clear 7. 

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July 3, 2014

One Response

  1. David E. Ortman (M61), Seattle, WA - July 3, 2014

    Congratulations to Charles Austin for his record breaking high jump and thanks for making the attempt. One benefit not mentioned is that it gives other masters athletes the opportunity to compete against Olympians. None of my modest masters high jump accomplishments rate higher than jumping with Dick Fosbury in a combined age group (M40-44/M45-49) at the 1998 World Masters Games in Eugene, or jumping with Dwight Stones and Jim Barrineau (M40-44) at the 1995 World Association of Veterans Athletes (WAVA) championships in Buffalo, NY. Thanks for not resting on your Olympic “laurels.”

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