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Willie Banks Returns to Record Books: Oldest American to High Jump 6 Feet

Olympian and former world record holder in triple jump clears record at San Diego Senior Games.

SAN DIEGO, CA — Willie Banks of Carlsbad is 56 now. But the former Oceanside High School star who went on to track and field fame at UCLA and set a world record in the triple jump still enjoys the sport.

Saturday at Mesa College, competing long after others in his event, he became the oldest American to clear 6 feet in the high jump.

His first-try clearance at the San Diego Senior Games beat the current age-group U.S. best of 5-10 3/4 by Olympian Jim Barrineau in August—which in turn had topped the event’s oldest record, 5-10 by Herm Wyatt in 1987.

How did he do it? Extra training? Special coaching?

Banks said no: “I’ve been losing weight for this.”  Since January, he said, he’s gone from 203 pounds to 183. 

Using a three-step approach. Banks cleared his first height—5-6—then followed with successful tries at 5-8 and 5-10, measured metrically at 1.68, 1.73 and 1.78 meters. He used the straddle technique, clearing face to the bar, instead of the almost universally used Fosbury flop, with back to the bar.

After jumping 6 feet, he had the bar raised another 5 centimeters to 1.88 meters, or 6-2. He barely missed on his second try. That would have topped the listed world age-group record for men 55-59 of 6-0 1/2 by Thomas Zacharias of Germany.

Banks, who competed in the 1984 and 1988 Olympics, was inducted into the National Track & Field Hall of Fame in 1999. His world record in the triple jump of 58-11 1/2 lasted 10 years.

Marc Maturo September 23, 2012 at 05:53 PM
Willie, you are a wonderful inspiration to all of the geezers, including yours truly. May you continue to leap higher and higher in life.
Kyrrell September 23, 2012 at 06:23 PM
Willie, you are one of the reasons, I got into track and field in the first place, and now looking at you, I see that I'm not old yet at the age of 43. God bless ya. (Now I'm gonna lace up the running shoes and get a 3 mile run in)
Wade September 23, 2012 at 07:01 PM
Fantastic! You are an inspiration to the rest of us "middle-aged" men. Keep it up man!
KEITH September 23, 2012 at 09:24 PM
WAY TO GO WILLIE. WE WILL LOOK FOR 2.00M NEXT
Stephen Custadero September 23, 2012 at 11:18 PM
Right on from another old geezer former jock.
Cindy Gilbert September 24, 2012 at 03:09 PM
The straddle lives! Add another record to RECORD MAN!

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