Damar Forbes is known in the US collegiate track and field circles as a jumper to watch, yet his name might not readily ring a bell in Jamaica, the land of his birth. That is because the leading Louisiana State University (LSU) long jumper went to live in the US in 1998 when he was seven, long before most budding high school stars in Jamaica would be making waves with their performances at regional meets and the world renowned boys and girls athletics championships, popularly known as Champs.
Forbes, 21, loved track since he was in primary school in Jamaica and was a sprinter before he turned to the lateral jumps.
Kwesi Peters photo
Forbes on the triple jump runway.
“I wanted to do something different,” he told Caribbean TrackLife recently. “I could already jump high and far, so I said, ‘let me try it [long jump],’ and I excelled at it.” Then his name began appearing in the print media alongside those of the most competitive high school-athletes in the US. Writer Scott Bush said, “Damar Forbes impressed. He smashed the competition, being the only athlete to clear 24ft on the day and jump to a gold medal in 24ft-8¼ins.” He was referring to the 2008 national Junior Olympic Championships in Nebraska.
Later, David St. Louis, another reporter covering a February 2009 high school invitational meet in Kentucky, had this to say prior to the long jump final: “Damar Forbes, last year’s USA Track & Field Junior Olympic National Champion in the long jump and runner-up at USATF Youth Nationals in the triple jump, has already been 24ft-6.5ins and has the talent to snatch the year-old meet record… There are seven other long jumpers between 21’ and 22’ so the chase for second will be a tight one, but all eyes will be on Forbes when he prepares to take flight…”
Since leaving Jamaica, the LSU Tiger had wanted to accomplish three things: to get into LSU, compete at the Penn Relays, and represent Jamaica at a high level. A scholarship to LSU ensured the first of his dreams and guaranteed the second. Now he does both lateral jumps for his school in the NCAAs.
Last year, the third of his dreams became a reality when he represented Jamaica at the Daegu World Championships and placed 18th overall. “Putting on the Jamaican jersey was a dream come through; that’s what I’ve always strived for.
This year, he is in a London 2012 state of mind, so he’s working hard to book his spot on Jamaica’s team and then make the Olympic finals. “I want my name to be mentioned with the greats,” he affirms. “I want to medal in the Olympics, and I want to break James Beckford’s 1997 national long jump record [8.62m/28 ft-3½ in].”
Forbes, who has a personal best (PB) outdoor of 27ft-even achieved last year, seems to be on track with his progression indoor this year. At the February 10 Tyson Invitational at the Randal Tyson Track Center in Arkansas, Forbes jumped a new indoor personal record with 26ft-7¾ inches on his third jump of the preliminary round to take the title by more than 15 inches over his nearest rival. It was the third-straight week Forbes was setting a season best after jumping 26ft-0¼in at the Arkansas Razorback Invitational on January 27 and 26-0¾ at the New Balance Collegiate Invitational in New York on February 3.
Commenting on his Tyson Invitational performance, Damar said it was long overdue and that he felt he should have been jumping that all along. “The biggest thing for me,” he remarked, “is that I’ve been consistent with my performance.”
Years ago, Forbes watched American Michael Johnson thrill the world over 200m and 400m; today he’s inspired by Irvine Saladino, the 2007 World champion and defending Olympic champion from Panama. After his tenure on the track is over, the current sports administration major wants to remain in sports, to counsel athletes or coach student-athletes.
For now though, the silently intense competitor, who is actually quite calm away from the pit, is putting in the work to get him to the NCAA nationals. “That’s when the work will show,” he pointed out. If focus and determination are tools for success, Damar Forbes seems well equipped. He will readily tell you: “I’m following my path right now.” Post comment here