The athletics legend who inspired Staffordshire triple jumper Ben Williams to take up the sport has recorded a special good luck message ahead of his departure for Tokyo.
Jonathan Edwards CBE has held the triple jump world record of 18.29m for 26 years and it was his gold medal-winning jump in Sydney in 2000, which sparked Ben’s interest in the sport. Today Jonathan Edwards joined JCB Chairman Anthony Bamford and JCB employees in wishing the 29-year-old the best of luck in Tokyo in a special film ahead of his departure.
Jonathan Edwards said: “It’s lovely that I’ve inspired somebody. One thing that makes life worth living is having an impact on somebody else. It’s quite special. Ben also obviously has talent because he has jumped over 17 metres and has the mental resolve and tenacity to go with that. It’s important that Ben has got a good sponsor like JCB as well because that takes the worry out of where the money is coming from to pay the bills. That is until he goes on and breaks my world record and then he will get the money rolling in!”
Lord Bamford said: “I’m thrilled Ben has qualified and the whole team here is right behind him. We wish him the best of luck.”
It has been Ben’s dream to follow in Jonathan Edwards’ footsteps since, as an eight-year-old, he saw him on TV winning gold in Sydney. He was on the verge of giving up his sporting ambitions two years ago but persevered with JCB’s help. Ben flies out to Japan on Monday (July 19th) and has his qualifying round on the morning of August 3. The final is two days later. Currently he is the only British triple jumper to clear 17 metres in the last nine years.
Ben said: “I was a young lad playing football and I didn’t know what triple jumping was when I saw Jonathan Edwards on the TV. It was a replay on the television news or something, when they were talking about him winning the Sydney gold medal, and I was fascinated by the majestic way he was floating in the air. My grandad was a big sports man and he knew something about it and he took me in the back garden and showed me how to triple jump.” There were more lessons from grandad Ron Harper, now 80, and he and the whole family will be up in the early hours to see how Ben does in Tokyo.
“I’m about to realise my boyhood dream, so this is a thrilling and exciting time for me but I have to say that without JCB I wouldn’t be here,” added Ben. “The company is massive and has factories all over the world so it’s amazing to think they might all be watching me.” Ben (personal best 17.27 metres) thinks qualifying should not be a problem in Tokyo,
estimating 16.90m will be needed, but he reckons it is going to take 17.50m for a medal.