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Monday, 25 September, 2000, 11:25 GMT 12:25 UK
Edwards finally fulfils his potential
Jonathan Edwards' career has been one of superlatives. But it would not have been complete without the Olympic gold medal he won on Monday.
He is the pre-eminent triple jumper of his generation, but until Monday, he had had to be happy with an Olympic silver, from Atlanta.
He holds the world record. He has won a world championship. He has been number one in the world for at least five years. And he has made more than enough money not to have worry about working again. But the Olympics is something else again, as he is happy to admit.
Notwithstanding the controversy surrounding his newspaper attack on Britain's swimmers on the eve of the games, Edwards has a reputation as a genuinely nice guy, and except for at the Olympics, he has always belied the adage that nice guys don't win.
At 34, Sydney will almost certainly be Edwards' final games and it was therefore his last of four chances to win gold.
Yet he was prepared to give up on his quest, and forget the endless hours he has dedicated to crowning his career, for the sake of his family.
A devout Christian, Edwards' mother-in-law died just days before the Olympic flame was lit, and it was touch and go for a while whether he would return to England to help her through the difficult times.
The family discussed whether he would return home before he left, when it was clear that his mother-in-law did not have long to go.
He said: "It was a conversation we had on a number of occasions before I left. Not just ourselves, but my father-in-law and Alison's sisters.
"They were all telling me, 'We want you to go out compete and win the Olympics'.
"But it's easy to make these decisions in the cold light of day - it's another thing when you're not at home. It was very tough."
And although he says he chose not to because his wife and two children were coping well, it says a lot about how much an Olympic gold medal means to Edwards that he stayed in Sydney.
How glad he must be of that now, and he admitted before the event that he would feel a deep sense of satisfaction at fulfilling his dream.
"But that's not at the core of me," he says. "As a Christian I don't want my life to be defined by what happens on an athletics track.
Nevertheless, if he had not won the Olympics gold, something would have been missing, even if that would have been a perception from the outside not within.
It has not been an easy season for Edwards. There has been the family problems, but also a career crisis that saw him flee Britain and seek refuge in Israel.
"I hope that God is with me whether I win or whether I lose," he said before the triple jump final.
"My parents and God have given me the respect to act in a way that is pleasing to Him, and doesn't glorify myself or equally plumb the depths.
"Winning is everything to me. I haven't made all these sacrifices and my wife and I didn't come to the decision that I should stay here when her mum died for me to come second.
"But equally nothing that is really important in my life will change with the result on Monday. My relationship with God, my family, close friends - nothing has changed or will."
Apart from one thing - the Olympic gold medal to put the crowing glory on a career that has last been fulfilled.
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