AUSTIN, Texas -- The thing that first needs to be understood, before the mouth goes slack at how far Marquise Goodwin can leap or how far he has come, or even that he is going to the 2012 Olympics, is this has always just been part of the plan.
It has been expected ever since he first took flight in Lubbock 13 years ago. That summer morning a slight and slender 9-year-old boy hit the runway in his first event of his first track meet and flew close to 14 feet.
He won that event and two others, the 100 and 200. The name of the team he took home the medals for … the Lubbock Olympians.
"All this took shape the day he started running track and field," Texas track coach Bubba Thornton said. "It's all part of the plan. [The plan] really doesn't come full circle until he makes the [Olympic] finals and wins.''
What could be the final phase of the plan takes flight Aug. 3. That's when the qualification round takes place, with the finals to be conducted the following day. Goodwin comes into the Games having won the U.S. Olympic Trials with a career-best jump of 8.33 meters (27 feet, 4 ¼ inches). Dwight Phillips, the 2004 gold medal winner and world champ in 2009 and '11, will miss the games due to injury. Phillips' absence has left the door open for Goodwin.
"It is a wide-open competition," Goodwin said. "And guys are really gunning saying, 'Oh this American cat, he is a young guy. He boomed one. Can he do it again?' I know in my heart that I can do better and I know that I will do better."
Goodwin has always done better. A year ago he missed the finals at the World Championships by one centimeter. He remained undeterred. In the Olympic Trials in June, he posted the top mark on his first jump and watched it hold through three rounds. After being bested with a jump of 8.22 meters by William Caye, Goodwin went out and flew a little farther, 8.23. That was just far enough for him to qualify for the Olympics. But Goodwin was far from done. On the last jump of the day, with his spot in the Olympics already wrapped up, Goodwin soared 8.33 meters.
"That speaks to how in those moments he is really able to line up," Thornton said. "He takes all the energy from the moment and is able to use that in the event."
Goodwin has a slightly simpler mantra when he steps up to the runway: "Just jump farther than everybody else."
The thing is he always had. That's why the Olympics were never just some out-of-reach dream.
Now Goodwin is able to share that part with Tamina Goodwin, his mother, and Billie Williams, his grandmother, who will both be in the crowd at the Olympics. The family couldn't afford to fly them to London, so donations were gathered. Back home, Goodwin's sister, Deja, who was born 10 months after her brother and with cerebral palsy, will watch her "Pookie" on TV.
"They have been there the whole way, they have done nothing but encourage me," Goodwin said. "They have always been there lifting me up even when I wasn't on top of my game."
"When things get rocky, that is what he knows to go back to and it puts it all in place," Thornton added.
Now everything that first took shape the day Tamina took her son out to the track in Lubbock 13 years ago is in place. The plan is working. The Olympics are here. And so too is Goodwin, just like everyone knew he would be.
"This is all a part of who he is," Thornton said.