No longer a bridesmaid
LSU's Forbes nabs first-place finishes after string of runner-ups
EUGENE, Ore. -- Damar Forbes was sick of being second.
Beginning in 2011, Forbes, an LSU senior, had recorded a runner-up finish in eight different championship meets. It didn’t matter if it was indoor or outdoor, SEC or NCAA.
Second-place finishes were all across his results sheets.
Finally, at the SEC outdoor championships on May 11, he finished first. On Thursday he did it again, this time at the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Eugene, Ore. Forbes recorded his winning mark, 8.35 meters (27-04.75), with his second jump, and no other jumper came within a foot.
“I wanted to be a winner,” said Forbes, a 2012 Olympian for Jamaica. “I was tired of being second. It was hurting me. A lot of people looked at me and said, ‘You’re always second, that’s got go be a good feeling.’ No it’s not. It’s not.
“I’ve trained too hard to be second all the time. I knew I had the talent to win, I just had to get it out of myself, stop being lazy.”
The talent has been evident throughout his college career. The hard work that turned Forbes from a runner-up into a champion came this summer and fall.
Without his coach knowing, he began “doing things that you wouldn’t think a regular person would do” to improve his speed.
“In the offseason I was doing hills and I was doing a lot of plyometrics and doing a lot of sit ups and squat jumps on my own,” he said.
The result was not only a big improvement in the long jump, but also a spot leading off the Tigers’ 4x100 relay team, which went through the NCAA semifinals with the fourth-best time and had the third-fastest time in the nation coming into this week’s meet.
“Right when we got back from the Olympics he took a little time off, but the way he trained in the fall just had a focus and a purpose to it,” LSU jumps coach Todd Lane said. “It was really neat, and I think when an athlete does that, [an athlete] that has talent, then you have a great athlete.”
The Olympics, Forbes said, shaped his perspective going into his final college season. In London, he said he learned what it was like to compete on the biggest stage against the world’s best athletes. Forbes struggled both mentally and in adapting to the long breaks between jumps and ended up finishing 18th, short of finals at 7.79m (25-6.75).
“I’ve been patient this year, I know what I can do, and the Olympics just gave me that extra edge in competitiveness,” he said. “It made me grow up, basically.”
Still, Forbes again finished second at the 2013 SEC and NCAA indoor meets, both times to Florida sophomore Marquis Dendy. The breakthrough came at the SEC outdoor meet. After Forbes led early, Dendy overtook him on the fourth round. Then, on his sixth and final jump, Forbes finally shook the monkey off his back.
“You can only be bridesmaid for so many times,” Lane said. “I’d take a guy that’s a bridesmaid every national meet, but it’s nice to be the prom king every once in a while.”
Forbes began running track soon after moving to Pittsburgh from Kingston, Jamaica. Although he began dreaming of being a star sprinter — “Before the Usain Bolts and the Asafa Powells,” he points out — he eventually moved to Georgia and turned to jumping. After graduating from LSU in May with a degree in sport administration, he is ready to take the next step as a pro.
Later this summer, he is confident he will be representing Jamaica at the IAAF World Championships in Moscow, and this time he hopes to medal. It’s possible. Had Forbes jumped at the Olympics the same distance he did Friday, he would have won a silver medal.
He’s trying not to think too much about that now, though, because his final NCAA championships are just too sweet.
“It was a significant moment, on my last [jump] is when I won the SEC, and then I came here and won the NCAAs,” he said. “It was a dream come true.”
And with the 4x100 on Saturday, it’s not quite finished yet.