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June 11, 2018

Is The Unicorn Era In Track Upon Us?

In the NBA, we are now in an era in which big men like Kristaps Porzingis, Kevin Durant and Giannis Antetokounmpo are capable of doing things that we wouldn’t normally see big men doing in the 80s, 90s or early 2000s. They’ve been dubbed as “unicorns” in the NBA. A 2016 piece by Andrew Sharp for SI defined the term: “He can shoot, he can make the right plays, he can defend, and he’s a 7-footer that can shoot all the way out to the three-point line. That’s rare. And block shots—that’s like a unicorn in this league.”

So that brings us to the video of Juan Miguel Echevarria at the Stockholm Diamond League making rounds on the internet. It’s a track and field highlight producing headlines like: “This 19-year-old long jumped so far he almost flew out of the pit.”

On the latest episode of The Big Meet Pod (featured after every Diamond League event) on the CITIUS MAG Podcast, Ryan Sterner and Stephen Kersh broke down the video and discussed whether Echevarria can be dubbed a unicorn in the sport.

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Stephen: The video of this is insane. Miguel Echeveria, the world indoor champion from Cuba, won . He basically jumped out of the pit. His heel is basically coming up against the pit. It could’ve almost hurt.

Ryan: Did you ever see the kid on YouTube who got famous for jumping off tall buildings and into pools? Obviously things went terribly wrong and he hit his heels on the edge of a pool. That’s kind of what it looked like. It looked like he could’ve hurt himself just by sliding and jamming his heels at the end of the pit. I don’t know too much about field events but do you know who this man is?

Stephen: I think he’s very good given that he’s the world indoor champion. That was the long jump in a very long time. The wind was slightly above the legal limit.

Ryan: I hate that.

Stephen: The wind was 2.1 m/s and the legal limit is 2.0 m/s. But it was the longest jump since Mike Powell set the world record in 1991 of 8.95.

Ryan: Oh my God. That’s so far.

Stephen: He did 8.83, which is about 28.9 feet. He’s 19 years old.

Ryan: He was at the world championships in London in 2017 and won the 2018 world indoor championships. Before that, this list is just like PanAmerican Junior Championships, World Junior Championships, World Youth Championships.

Stephen: He’s just starting to get on the world stage.

Ryan: He also looks enormous.

Stephen: Massive.

Ryan: I think it’s kind of similar to when Usain Bolt came on the scene. He broke the mold of those short and stocky sprinters.Bolt was like 6’5” and 200-something pounds. It’s kind of interesting. I think jumpers tend to be a little lankier anyway – maybe some American jumpers and triple jumpers that I know. I feel like we’re just starting to get into this era – excuse the word that’s generally used in the NBA – of unicorns. Just these freakish athletic bodies. If you look at him, he just looks different.

Stephen: I think you’re right. Is that…or can that even bleed into running or is running less dependent – In distance running, you see a lot of different shapes and sizes that run over long distances. Is there ever going to something like ‘This is what you’ll need to look like.’

Ryan: Maybe distance running is less dependent on frame. It’s more about your engine. I’m sure that’s with everything. At least with sprinting, there’s a shred of sheer athleticism that you need to have.

Stephen: There has to be!

Ryan: I think that yes it can translate into running but more into sprinting. Like Usain Bolt was the perfect example.

Stephen: Totally. Because no one looked like him before.

Ryan: He looks nothing like Asafa Powell.

Stephen: Do you remember Walter Dix?

Ryan: I’m a huge Walter Dix fan.

Stephen: I love Walter Dix. There was some great stat about how many steps it took Walter Dix to complete a 200 compared to Usain Bolt.

Ryan: Four steps for Usain Bolt!

Stephen: (Laughs) So like 14 for Walter Dix. Obviously that’s probably less efficient.

Stephen: Juan Miguel looks like a wide receiver.

Ryan: Love that he chose the long jump.

Stephen: He’ll be able to have a much longer career.

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