When he was handed bib No. 1111, Dwight Phillips was sure he would defend his title in the long jump at the world championships. The three-time world champion from the United States finished first for the fourth time Friday with a leap of 27 feet, 8¾ inches on his second attempt.
"From the moment I saw (the bib number), I said this championship is mine," said Phillips, who competed in college at Kentucky and Arizona State. "It belongs to me and I claimed it tonight."
The favorite, Australia's Mitchell Watt, took silver with a jump of 27-4 and Zimbabwe's Ngonidzashe Makusha was third with 27-2½ , giving the African country its first medal at the worlds.
After winning gold, Phillips ripped the bib from his uniform, faced the crowd and held it aloft as fans cheered from the stands. Then, he wrapped himself in an American flag before setting off on a slow trot around the stadium. With the flag trailing behind him like a cape, Phillips pumped his right fist in the air the entire way.
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Watt and Makusha were reduced to spectators, slowly putting on their track suits and packing up as Phillips enjoyed his moment.
"I'm probably the most positive person you'll meet. I'm always smiling. When I'm mad, I'm smiling. When I'm happy, I'm smiling. When I'm sad, I'm smiling," Phillips said. "I always have an optimistic attitude."
With four world titles, the 2004 Olympic champion now has twice as many as Carl Lewis and world-record holder Mike Powell.
"Over the last decade, I've been that one of the guys in the event to win consistently and I feel grateful that I was victorious tonight," Phillips said. "You can measure speed. You can measure power. But you can't measure heart. I have a lot of determination."
Despite his long-running dominance in the sport, it didn't seem as if Phillips would be a factor at the worlds just a few months ago. He had struggled with an Achilles tendon injury and used his wild-card exemption to defend his title.
The American had done no better than 26-5¾ this year.
"I had a shadow of doubt early in season. I was so injury prone. My Achilles was killing me," Phillips said. "My coach said, 'Right, we are going to win. We have nine weeks to prepare. We are going to win it.'"
Now, Phillips is looking ahead to the 2012 London Olympics and one more gold. "I won the Olympics once," Phillips said, "and it would be a storybook ending for me to win the Olympics a second time."