Jesse Williams entered the 2008 Olympics with a personal best jump of 2.33 meters (7 feet, 7¾ inches), putting him within range of Olympic medal territory (Andrey Silnov eventually won the gold at 2.36/7-8¾). But Williams only cleared 2.25 (7-4½) in Beijing and didn't qualify for the final. Williams was ranked fourth in the world in 2009, during which he placed second at the U.S. Indoor Championships and fourth at the U.S. Outdoors. He won the U.S. Indoor title in 2010.
Grappling with sports:
It’s not unusual for track and field standouts to also play other sports in high school, but you won’t find many elite high jumpers who were once successful high school wrestlers. Williams, however, finished fifth at the North Carolina state wrestling championships as a senior.
Williams first attended North Carolina State but was more successful athletically after transferring to the University of Southern California, where he won the NCAA Outdoor championship in 2005, then earned both the NCAA Indoor and Outdoor titles in 2006.
Closing in on success:
The 2008 Olympic Trials marked Williams’ first U.S. championship, but he’d been knocking on the door for several years. He was ranked second in the U.S. in 2005-06 before reaching No. 1 in ’07. Williams finished second in the 2005 U.S. Outdoors and was the runner-up at the U.S. Indoors in both ’07 and ’08.
- Height: 6-0
- Weight: 155
- Birth date: December 27, 1983
- Hometown: Raleigh, North Carolina
- Personal best: 2.36 meters (7 feet, 8¾ inches)