The first American to compete in the high jump and long jump in 100 years began doing both events as a way to keep himself occupied

The first American to compete in the high jump and long jump in 100 years began doing both events as a way to keep himself occupied
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Juvaughn Harrison competes in the men's high jump qualification at Tokyo 2020.
Juvaughn Harrison. BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty Images
  • JuVaughn Harrison will compete in the high jump and long jump at the Olympics.

  • He is the first American man since Jim Thorpe in 1912 to do both in the same Olympics.

  • He stuck with the long jump in college to help with the emotional stakes of the high jump.

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

JuVaughn Harrison is set to make history at Tokyo 2020, becoming the first American man since Jim Thorpe in 1912 to compete in both the high jump and the long jump.

Harrison should be a contender in both events, taking the top spot in each at the Olympic trials, just hours apart.

As one of his college coaches at Louisiana State tells it, Harrison's world-level ability in the long jump was something of an afterthought when he arrived at the school.

According to the New York Times, when Harrison first arrived at LSU, the high jump was his marquee event, but given the mental toll the high jump can have, he was encouraged to continue competing in the long jump.

"The thought was, let's see if we can utilize some of that athletic ability in another event," LSU assistant coach Todd Lane told the Times. "High jump can be a tough event on the psyche; you end on failure every time, so the opportunity to add something else into the mix was a nice way to break that up for him."

Harrison summed the situation up succinctly: "Long jump was their way of giving me a break so that I didn't focus too much on high jump."

For Harrison, the situation was a win-win. He could give himself something to do outside of the high jump and continue to help his team in a secondary event as well. But Harrison wasn't just competing in the long jump - he was winning.

As a sophomore at the 2019 NCAA Indoor Championships, Harrison finished tied for second in the high jump and 1oth in the long jump.

Two years later, he won a national championship in both events.

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"There were some people who told me it's going to be hard to excel at both," Harrison told the Times. "But I just took that as motivation to do something that hasn't been done yet."

On Friday morning, Harrison successfully qualified for the men's high jump final. Saturday, he'll attempt to do the same in the long jump.

With luck, he'll be in contention for two medals in the coming days.

Back in high school, Harrison was a utility man. "I really just did what my school needed for points," Harrison told the Times, explaining why his competitive events included both high jump and long jump, as well as 110-meter and 300-meter hurdles.

Fast forward a few years, and Harrison uses that same stunning athleticism that allowed him to compete all over the track in high school and carry it over to Team USA.

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