Only five athletes in history have been able to jump more than 18 meters in triple jump. One of them is Teddy Tamgho (18.04m when he won the Moscow World Cup in 2013), who is preparing in Guadalajara for a new resurrection, the sixth, according to his accounts. In the previous five, he survived always accompanied by his coach, the Cuban Ivan Pedroso.
"Right now, I'm going to say one thing to you. Whenever I got hurt, always, people said 'he will not come back, he will not come back …'. And I do not care what they say. I do not know if I will do it, but in my mind I can do it, "he says. "If I came back to jump only 17m or finish fourth, I was not going to come back, I was going to leave athletics. If it is not to win I will not return. With what I do in training I know that I still have my legs for a world record, and if I have the legs for a world record, I can win in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. "
In a small pavilion near Paris, Tamgho will return on Friday the 21st to jump triple. The last time he did it was 30 months ago, in June 2016. He jumped 17.15m and broke his femur.
Tamgho (Paris, 1989), trains at full speed after measuring with a tape measure the exact meters his career must have to the pit, wonderful stride, powerful and light at the same time, and his slender body, 1,87m, 80 kilos. Concentrated. Oblivious to everything. Also to the noise that surrounds it, to the trucks that thunder near and multitudinous, tireless, on the overpass of the A2, which skims the track when it makes the curve that surrounds Guadalajara. It is isolated with an iPhone helmet also from the words of Pedroso, who praises his mental strength and his talent, his lack of fear and his ambition. And that speaks of its great fragility, of how an organic lack of vitamin D has given the Frenchman a problem of lack of bone density, the mother of all his fractures and injuries.
In July 2011, Tamgho broke his right ankle competing four months after his indoor track record of 17.92m. The injury meant losing the Daegu Worlds and the London Games. In November 2013, three months after his World Cup in Moscow, he fractured his left tibia training. In June 2014, when he was still on leave, he was given a one-year sanction for three missed anti-doping tests. And when he was about to return, he could not participate in the 2015 Beijing World Cup because he broke the Achilles tendon.
"I have had surgery six times between 2011 and 2016 …" says Tamgho. "My career has not been easy, it has not been easy … The last operation was very difficult. When I was on the operation table, the only thing I had in mind was that I had to go back; and I think that the mind does everything. The talent is given by God, but the mind is you, and the mind is stronger than the body and I think that's why I've always returned: I have a strong mind, but I also have a coach who is crazy like me, even if it seems more calm, and we both want to achieve that Olympic title. So, right after the operation, Ivan called me and said, 'hey, do not forget the goal, recover well and fast and go there.' That's".
Tamgho is now 29 years old. He is a person educated to the point of exasperation, please and thank you permanently in his language, and, contradicting the rumors, extremely timid. And he says everything in Spanish with a sweet voice, still sweetened by his sweet Cuban accent. "I speak Cuban without having gone to Cuba, just to listen to Ivan," he smiles. "I am French, my parents come from Cameroon, but I love the way of being Cubans. The cold is difficult here. We are in Guadalajara. And we have to follow the boss, do you understand? "
The reputation of insolent and arrogant Tamgho won in 2009, when he was 19 and was junior world champion and approached Jonathan Edwards, the triple god (world recordman with 18.29m since 1995) and snapped: "Hello Jonathan, I'm Teddy Tamgho and I'm going to beat your record. "
"And the English felt bad. I thought he was arrogant, but I was just a fanatical child of the greatest, "says Tamgho, who always speaks in long tirades that can not be interrupted without betraying him. "At that time I lacked to be more mature. When you are little you do not think like a professional. Things happened very fast for me, very fast. At 19 he was already jumping against the best in the world. It would have taken more time to understand how the system worked, and how to live and grow within the system itself. You have to learn to behave to integrate into the system, a machine that will always devour you. That is to be professional. Champions are not like normal people. Every day we train ourselves up to the pain. And when the pain comes, we continue. We have a little thing, weird, in the head. We are champions because we have that particular head. But we must also adapt that way of being to the system. And we are never afraid. I have broken all the bones jumping and when I jump again I never fear to break again. Like I say, I'm a little crazy in the head … "
More than 30 years ago, when Javier Sotomayor began to prepare his athletic track to repeatedly beat in Salamanca the world high jump record he still has (2.45m in 1993), Guadalajara was already known as the little Havana of athletics. Other athletes from the Caribbean island, who appreciated the proximity of Madrid and the Barajas airport, and the family atmosphere that could be created in the cold, accompanied the Limonar jumper, and among them was Iván Pedroso, the multiple world diving champion. of length. Pedroso married a woman from Guadalajara and with her he had a daughter, and it was only natural that when he started training champions, and only champions, he established his base in Guadalajara, which, under his impulse, is no longer, although it remains so, a little Havana, but something else, a kind of high-performance center superspecialized in the triple jump and in Latin American athletes, who live there.
The day of last week that Tamgho astonished those present with his speed and the fineness of his body in the hall of jumps, next to the Venezuelan balanced Yulimar Rojas (triple world champion), and not far away Luis Felipe Méliz , Cuban-Spanish jumper and now also a trainer, controlled the drills of an Ecuadorian jumper whom he wants to take to the Doha World Cup; and on the tartan track that has begun to be renovated, a Venezuelan coach worked with a cuatrocentista from his country. And everyone was waiting for more athletes to arrive, and wishing that spring would come, that the mists and the cold would go away, to receive the Cuban team led by the very young jumper Juan Miguel Echevarría, kid wonder who everyone says will be the first athlete to exceed nine meters.
"But when Ivan's girl grows up and does not go to school, I think we'll go the other way, hotter," says Tamgho. "But, at the moment, the city gave us everything we needed to train, the track, has done many things for us, the athletes, that's why we are happy, calm, training here." The only negative point is the weather in winter. not perfect".
Guadalajara is, above all, Pedroso and his group, so exclusive. When Tamgho settles in the city, he stays at the home of the Portuguese Nelson Evora, world, European and triple jump Olympic champion, and his partner, Ana Peleteiro, junior world champion and Spanish figure.
"The relationship in the group is super …", says Tamgho. "We are like a big family. With Iván and Iván. There is no jealousy. We all give advice to everyone. Ivan knows how to be tough, but that's not it, he does not need to be tough, because we're good people. Nelson is very serene and organized. Always think before doing something. I am helping him to be small again, to jump with the spirit, with youth, and that. And he helps me with the details, he's a detail person. When he sees you doing something silly, he talks to you about the details, and that's very important. "