V.I. long jumper Halim qualifies for 2012 Olympics
Published: December 10, 2011
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U.S. Virgin Islands track and field athlete Muhammad Halim was in the best shape of his life in October and was ready to dominate at the 2011 Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico.
He didn't advance to the finals of the triple jump event and was so disappointed with himself that he marched away from the jump area before the final results were even posted. Then he closed his eyes and tapped his track shoe three times.
There's no place like home. There's no place like home.
Halim traveled back to Cornell University, his alma mater, for a homecoming meet last weekend and registered career bests in the long jump and triple jump events. The Cornell faithful were on their feet every time Halim started down the runway and the crowd exploded when the results were revealed on the scoreboard.
"It's a huge arena and everyone was going crazy," the 25-year-old Halim said Friday. "It was definitely a special moment. I was surrounded by old friends and coaches, so to have those kinds of jumps in that environment - it couldn't have happened any better for me."
Halim tallied a distance of 16.85 meters in the triple jump, which set a new USVI record, stadium record and personal best. More importantly, the jump met the "B" Standard set by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) and it qualified him for the 2012 Olympic Games.
If no other USVI triple jumpers meet the "A" or "B" Standard in the next few months - Halim's little brother Hasheem, 22, is a standout triple jumper at Virginia Tech - that means Muhammad will compete at the Olympics in London this summer.
Halim became the third USVI track and field athlete to qualify for the upcoming Olympics. He joins professional sprinter Tabarie Henry, who runs the 400 meters, and Texas University sophomore Allison Peter, who runs the 200-meter sprint.
"And we're expecting to add a few more names to that qualifying list," USVI track coach Charles Golphin said. "We're stacking them up, and if everything goes right, we should have up to seven USVI track and field athletes in London."
Halim's coach at Cornell was Nathan Taylor, who also traveled with the USVI contingent in Mexico. They both agreed that rebounding after his poor performance in Mexico was just a matter of time.
"I was in really good shape for the Pan Ams but it just didn't happen for me there," said Halim, who was the 2008 NCAA National Champion in the triple jump. "I wanted to hit the qualifier there, but the moment wasn't right. After a few weeks of sulking, I knew I had to come back strong."
He admitted that competing in front of a home crowd definitely helped him. Setting a personal record in the long jump before the triple jump competition even started was also an omen.
On his last long jump at the meet, Halim leaped 7.85 meters and beat out the other 30 jumpers in the competition.
"I think that helped me," said Halim, who won a silver medal in the long jump at the 2010 Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Games. "The long jump was a personal best for me and after that, I knew in my heart that something special was going to happen."
Qualifying for the Olympics was a huge relief for Halim, who lives and works in Washington, D.C. Now he plans to train even harder without any mounting qualification pressure on his head.
"I guess you can say a huge burden has been lifted because it felt like every meet I was at, I was so concerned about chasing that qualifying distance," Halim said. "In my head, I was counting down the days until London and now I don't have to worry about that anymore."
Halim is still looking to add 13 more centimeters to his triple jump distance so he can qualify for the IAAF World Indoor Championships, which will be held in Istanbul, Turkey in March.
USVI Track Federation general secretary Wallace Williams said Laverne Jones-Ferrette (100 meters, 200 meters), Leslie Murray (400-meter hurdles), Calvin Dascent Jr. (200 meters) and Collister Fahie (long jump) are very close to meeting qualification marks.
- Contact sports writer Aaron Gray at 714-9102 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.