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Bahamian Thomas wins world title on 8-months practice

Bahamian Thomas wins world title on 8-months practice

Imagine what a high jumper Donald Thomas could be with some more practice.
The 23-year-old Thomas won gold in his first trip to the world championships, less than two years after taking high jumping seriously at the expense of basketball.
He's obviously a natural. Encouraged into athletics by a cousin, Thomas started jumping competitively in January last year and says he has only worked properly with a coach for eight months.
Despite that, "I'm not surprised I won," Thomas said. "I never doubt in myself."
On Wednesday, his nervous looking opening miss at 2.21 meters and his two failed attempts at 2.33 belied his calmness when it counted.
He sailed over 2.35 with his first leap, taking top spot when 2005 world championships silver medalist Yaroslav Rybakov and Kyriakos Ioannou of Cyprus both missed their first attempts at that mark.
Olympic champion Stefan Holm of Sweden was already out, failing at 2.35. Defending champion Yuri Krymarenko did not make the final.
Thomas won a countback when the last three all failed at 2:37.
So far, he's only worked on half of his technique.
The focus "this year try to get stutter steps out of my approach," he said. "Didn't work on going over the bar yet.
"Hopefully next year I will be in better form _ I have only 8 months of high jump training behind me."
He said his career started with a dare.
"A friend of mine dared me to jump 6-foot-6 and I jumped 7 foot _ ever since I've been high jumping."
Thomas started jumping competitively at Lindenwood University outside of St. Louis in January 2006, when he didn't even own the right shoes.
"My first competition last year was 2.24 without spikes," he said.
Thomas quickly discarded the cross trainers he wore in his first competition, and now wears pole vault shoes. And he's dissected the discipline, trying to perfect the craft.
Now at Auburn, he's patiently developing his obvious raw talent and reaching for new heights.
"Olympics is next target, and after more training and learning the event, the goal could be also the world record," he said.
His unexpected title matched that of another man from Bahamas.
Troy Kemp got an unexpected world championships gold medal in 1995 at Goteborg, splitting the great Cuban Javier Sotomayor's two world titles.
Sotomayor, hampered by a sore foot, lost on a countback to Kemp at 2:37, his first loss in four years since an injury-enforced second place at the 1991 world championships.
"I don't know Troy Kemp personally," he said. "Of course, I know what he did."
To get the record he's targeting, Thomas will have to emulate Kemp, in a way, by beating a mark set by Sotomayor.
Sotomayor owns the world record at 2.45 _ which has been out of reach for everyone since 1993.