Winning an Olympic gold medal is the pinnacle of every athletic career; it’s THE moment you’ve worked and trained for for years. But for long jumper Jeff Henderson, who won the gold in the long jump for the USA earlier this week with a jump of 8.38 meters, the gold medal was about something way bigger than his athletic achievement.
He wanted to win it all, he says, for his mom.
“The medal is JUST for her. She’s the one that raised me.” he said in an interview on NBC.
“My mom can’t be here, she has Alzheimer’s,” he said after his win. “When I place that medal in her hands, I’ll be crying. A gold medal is like a newborn baby. It’s just lovely.””
Henderson, 27, says his mom has been sick for about 10 years, and no longer knows him when she sees him. He also said leaving her behind over the years while he’s been away training has been hard, and that his first order of business after he gets home from Rio will be to buy his parents a new house suited to his mom’s growing medical needs due to the continued devastating effects of Alzheimer’s.
One of six siblings from Arkansas, Henderson says he began his track and field career by racing his brothers and sisters in the neighborhood when they were young. He kept at it, and now that training has paid off in the biggest way possible!
Henderson’s incredible golden jump was a close one—he won by JUST one centimeter! He beat out defending gold medalist from 2012, Great Britain’s Greg Rutherford, who got bronze, and South Africa’s Luvo Manyonga, who took silver.
Congrats to Henderson, and we pray your homecoming with your mom is joyous one.