Reindell Cole sprinted down the long-jump runway, just like he has hundreds of times before. It was time to take flight at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Eugene, Ore. Destination: first a sand pit, then London. His left foot hit the board, just as it always does. Except this time, as he pushed off, Cole felt his foot shift in his shoe. This was not part of the itinerary.
A few seconds and some 25 feet later, the 2006 Desert Pines High School grad and one of Vegas Seven’s Most Intriguing People for 2012 walked out of the pit, glanced down at his shoe and noticed something he’d never seen before: two broken shoelace eyelets on the right side of his left shoe. Here’s what else he noticed: a tender ankle on the same foot where an Achilles tendon injury cost him about six weeks of training and left him at “80-85 percent” for the Trials.
“I was like, ‘This is not good. How the heck did this happen?’ After that first jump, I just knew it was going all downhill.”
On July 27, hundreds of American athletes will stroll into Olympic Stadium in London for the opening ceremonies of the 2012 Games. Cole will not be among them. Although his 25-foot-plus jump in the June 22 preliminary round at the Trials was enough to get him a spot in the finals, his results two days later left him without a ticket to London. Needing to place in the top three, Cole returned to the track with his left ankle heavily taped—“And I don’t ever get my ankle taped”—and barely jumped 22 feet on his first attempt, then fouled on his last two tries. He finished ninth out of 12 competitors.
When the day’s events concluded, a shuttle bus took all the athletes back to the hotel. All but one. “I walked back in the rain,” Cole says. Back in his room, he shed tears with his brother, an Army serviceman stationed in Hawaii who traveled to Oregon for the Trials. Quickly, though, Cole’s disappointment gave way to steely resolve. The lofty goals he revealed back in January—to be the first long-jumper to eclipse 9 meters, to win four Olympic gold medals and set four world records in long-jumping and sprinting, to “be known as one of the greatest all-around track-and-field athletes there ever was”—remain. His eyes—and, one hopes, eyelets—are now fixed on the 2016 Games in Brazil. “Believe it or not,” he says, “those four years fly by pretty fast.”
Cole, who returned home to Las Vegas after the Trials, says his next move is to return to the U.S. Olympic Training Center near San Diego. There the 24-year-old will prepare for his first taste of overseas competition this fall, followed by the indoor track-and-field season, followed next summer by the World Track & Field Championships in Moscow. “The Olympic Games are like the Super Bowl, and the World Championships are like the after-party,” he says. “So they’re going to have to see me at the after-party.”