Interview by James I. Pressley
Larry Myricks today is known in Metro Atlanta as the Executive Director of the Atlanta Corporate Challenge or as a Board Member on Sports DeKalb, but few in today’s younger generation remember Larry Myricks, the four-time Olympian and Bronze Medalist at the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea. I had the chance to catch up with Myricks, reflecting on his historic career and thoughts on the upcoming games in London.
Sports DeKalb: Larry, what comes across your mind when your name is mentioned as one of the greatest jumpers in U.S. track and field history?
Myricks: Well, I guess more than anything else, it’s kind of a validation of all the things that I accomplished while competing over the years.
My purpose in competing was to make the most of this God-given talent that I had and just see how far it could take me and where it would take me. – Larry Myricks on competing
Sports DeKalb: Your long jump duels against Carl Lewis and Mike Powell were considered legendary. How did it feel to constantly compete “in their shadow” over the years?
Myricks: First of all, “in the shadow” depends on who you are talking to, and secondly, I competed because I was good at it and I enjoyed what I did. I didn’t step on the track with my sole purpose trying to beat Carl and trying to beat Mike. My purpose in competing was to make the most of this God-given talent that I had and just see how far it could take me and where it would take me.
Sports DeKalb: In 1968, Bob Beamon set the world record in the long jump of 29 feet, 2 ½ inches. Throughout your career, did you ever find yourself chasing the record prior to Mike Powell eventually surpassing it in 1991?
Myricks: We’re always chasing the record! Everybody wants to break the record. Mike eventually got it, but that was certainly one of my goals when I really got serious about my track and field career, sure. I got close, but I didn’t get close enough. You know there are always those big ones that get away from you, but that was definitely one of my goals.
Sports DeKalb: You participated in the Summer Games on four different occasions. What is your fondest memory of being an Olympian?
Myricks: I think for me, fondest memories are not so much the memories of competition, but more so all the people I was able to meet and make friends with. I have friends all over the world because I was able to be an Olympian.So fondest memories for me are not going to be a track meet where I jumped 28 feet. It’s going to be a track meet where I sat down with a guy by the name of Jaime Jefferson, whom you’ve probably never heard of, and we played backgammon in Paris. For me, it’s those kinds of things; the medals and the awards, you get them and they stay in the closet, locked in the dark basically. My memories are of people, not so much performances.
Sports DeKalb: What would you consider a low point of your career?
Myricks: Probably in 1976, I made my first Olympic team and I was warming up for the finals and broke an ankle, unable to compete. That for me was my lowest point. I was right there and was jumping really well that year; there was no way I wouldn’t have got a medal. I had to sit there and watch the competition before they even knew I was injured to the point I needed medical attention.
Sports DeKalb: The Summer Games will be coming up within the month. Is there anyone or any event in particular that you are looking forward to seeing?
Myricks: Of course, I’m going to watch the long jump because that was my event. I watch it all, I watch all the events. I like to watch the track and field; I like to watch the swimming and gymnastics. Those are probably my three favorite of the summer events.
Sports DeKalb: Is there a current track athlete who reminds you of yourself in your prime?
Myricks: No. And I say that because the athletes of today seem to approach what they do differently than the way “we” did. And “we” meaning that there were a lot of guys back in my day that took what we did a lot more seriously. We were students of our events; students of our sport. We knew about the athletes that came before us and respected their opinions. We would listen to what they had to say, their suggestions. We didn’t have to use them, but we would listen respectfully. We competed. We showed up at every meet and went head to head no matter what. Nowadays, they’re more concerned about world rankings, contacts, and all this other kind of stuff. Plus, the sport is in a different place too.
Sports DeKalb: So what is Larry Myricks doing today?
Myricks: He has a sports promotions company, and I basically do different types of sporting events. We do clinics for track and field athletes, clinics for coaches, and we just wrapped up a five week, 22-tournament competition called the “Atlanta Corporate Challenge” that was for companies in the Metro Atlanta area. So that is where my path is taking me right now.
Sports Dekalb: I understand that you are also working with Sports DeKalb, how has that been for you?
Myricks: It has actually been very good. I have been able to make some very good connections and contacts and it has been great for networking. It has helped me get out in the community. I have a pretty good handle on all the facilities and venues because we do a lot of different kinds of events. So it’s nice to know where to go. I think probably more for the networking and all that kind of stuff, it’s really been a good deal for us.
James I. Pressley, a Sports DeKalb sports marketing intern, is a senior at Morehouse College who takes courses in the school’s Journalism and Sports Program and is a member of the Maroon Tiger tennis team.