By THOMAS RANSON
Nevada Appeal News Service
Greek gods and goddesses stood high above the rest the world as they watched the Olympic games from Mount Olympia.
The fiercest soldiers, after battling to save or extend their territories, competed every four years for something more special: The right to be called the greatest athlete in the world.
Fallon's Aarik Wilson is looking for that same standing as he embarks on his debut in the Olympics.
After winning the triple jump in record-setting fashion at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Oregon two months ago, the 2001 Fallon and 2005 Indiana grad makes his biggest jumps in Beijing tonight at 7 p.m. (Monday, 10 a.m. in Beijing). If Wilson places in the top eight tonight, he advances to the finals Thursday in pursuit of one of the three Olympic medals.
"The competition is going to be fierce to say the least," Wilson said. "I am going to have to be as fast and strong and technically sound as I have ever been. No part of this will be easy and that will make success more meaningful. I am ready to get it started."
Wilson will have his work cut out for him tonight. He faces familiar foes from the professional circuit, like Great Britain's Phillips Idowu who holds the best mark this season at 17.58 meters (57 feet 6 inches). Wilson's best mark of the season is 17.43 meters (57-1), which came at the U.S. Trials.
But anything can happen on any given day, and both Wilson and his coach, Wayne Pate, have seen it happen numerous times. For Pate, though, he doesn't like pressuring his jumper with high expectations.
"I never put distances or times on my kids," said Pate, who coached Wilson at Indiana for four years. "Knowing Aarik what kind of competitor he is, I know not to expect anything because he'll go beyond what I expect. Each competition is different. He can win the gold medal and two weeks later get fourth place. If you start to expect things, you're going to be disappointed. We'll walk away with whatever happens."
After missing the cut in the U.S. Trials four years ago, Wilson has committed himself to becoming the best in the country. Now that he accomplished his goal last month, Wilson wants to show the world what he can do.
Since his stress fracture in May, Wilson has been nursing his injured leg to full strength and feels confident about performing in China. The two-time state triple jump champion hasn't changed his practice routine since he left the United States a week ago.
"While I have been here, the training has been similar to what I was doing in Kansas," Wilson said last week after arriving in Beijing. "It is a balance of getting the work on the track and then at the same time not beating my stress fracture too much. I have been two days on the track and one in the pool and then making sure to get a rest day in, too."
Longtime high school coach Paul Orong said Wilson's a different jumper from the 2004 Trials and believes he can swoop in and surprise the competition, just like he did for the Greenwave.
"At the Reed Rotary, a kid from Idaho was their state champ and he jumps 46 (feet), 1 (inch) and he's all hopping around," Orong said about Wilson's high school days. "He points at Aarik, the Nevada state champ, and Aarik looks at him and jumps 48 feet. He (the Idaho jumper) tells his dad that he can't jump that far. Aarik beats him effortlessly. That cracked me up."