BERLIN — Down and out at this time last year, Dwight Phillips was close to hanging up his track spikes.He was injured, off the Olympic team and taking a hit in the real estate market. The 31-year-old American turned all that around Saturday, bouncing back from the tough times of 2008 to win his third world title with a jump of 28 feet, 1/4 inch.
BERLIN — Down and out at this time last year, Dwight Phillips was close to hanging up his track spikes.
He was injured, off the Olympic team and taking a hit in the real estate market.
The 31-year-old American turned all that around Saturday, bouncing back from the tough times of 2008 to win his third world title with a jump of 28 feet, 1/4 inch.
Phillips' performance marks a stunning turnaround for a man who was written off after he finished fourth at last year's U.S. Olympic trials and failed to qualify for the Beijing Olympics.
"It was an extremely low point for me," the 2004 Olympic and '03 and '05 world champion said. "I had invested heavily in the real estate market, and that crashed in the United States. I didn't make the Olympic team. I was injured. All the press said, 'It's over for him.'
"They had pretty much written my obituary. The undertaker had taken out my organs, and I was dead. But today I was able to rise to the top and I'm just happy with that."
Phillips, who lives in Snellville, Ga., said he sat at home during the Beijing Games and watched very little. He only tuned in to see the U.S. men's hurdlers.
"I really didn't care anything about track and field," he said. "I wanted to get as far away as possible from it and not think about it. I needed that time to just reflect and see if I wanted to continue doing the sport."
He put on weight, ballooning to 198 pounds by January before deciding to rededicate himself. He got a new coach and trained harder than ever. He watched his diet and shed weight to get in the best shape of his career.
"Had I made the Olympic team, maybe I won't be here right now," Phillips said. "It made me eager, hungry and ready to come out and prepare even better than ever."
Godfrey Khotso Mokoena of South Africa took silver at 27-9 1/2, and Mitchell Watt of Australia won bronze at 27-5 1/2. Olympic and defending world champion Irving Saladino of Panama scratched on his first three attempts and was eliminated.
Phillips' victory Saturday was extra sweet because of the setting — the same stadium in which Jesse Owens won four Olympic medals, including the long jump, at the 1936 Berlin Games.
"It was just unbelievable knowing that I was in the same place that such a historical person, that a great icon for humanity competed at," Phillips said. "When I left my room this morning, I didn't want to disappoint anybody. I wanted to bring the USA gold back and I'm happy I did."
Owens' granddaughter, Marlene Hemphill Dortch, was in attendance Saturday, sitting in the same box in which Adolf Hitler watched the 1936 Games.
At the medal ceremony for the long jump, Dortch placed the gold around Phillips' neck and hugged him.
"That's just history looking at me in the face," he said. "I was so honored."