KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kenny Harrison’s gold medal-winning performance at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics set the gold standard in the triple jump for all U.S. competitors for nearly two decades.
Harrison, who is from Milwaukee, rose to prominence with the Kansas State University track and field program.
He was a 16-time Big Eight champion in the long jump and triple jump with the Wildcats — winning three NCAA titles in the 1986 indoor long jump (26 feet-9 3/4 inches), 1986 outdoor triple jump (55-7 3/4) and 1988 indoor triple jump (54-11 1/4).
Harrison was chosen as the Outstanding Performer at the 1986 Big Eight Championships.
He still owns the K-State men’s indoor long jump record, which he set at the 1986 NCAA Championships, and the men’s outdoor records for the long jump (26-11 1/2, 1988 S&W Invitational) and triple jump (56-0, 1988 NCAA Championships).
But his crowning achievement came in 1996.
Harrison, a Jim Thorpe Award winner in 1990 after taking first at the U.S. Championships and Goodwill Games, missed the 1992 Barcelona Olympics with an injury. He was the reigning gold medalist from the 1991 World Championships and favored to win.
By 1996, Britain’s Jonathan Edwards had emerged as the new world record holder, but Harrison wouldn’t be denied.
Harrison led in qualifying despite a couple of fouls, then extended his lead on the first jump in the Olympic final, which would have been enough for the gold medal.
Harrison went ahead and padded his lead with an Olympic and U.S. record triple jump of 59-4 1/4, leaving the silver for Edwards.
Harrison’s record remains the Olympic record heading into the Tokyo Games later this summer. It’s the third-longest jump in world history.
His U.S. record in the triple jump stood until August 2015, when Christian Taylor jumped 59-8 3/4 at the World Track and Field Championships to dethrone Harrison.
The Kansas City region has a deep, rich history with respect to the Olympic Games. As the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games approach with the Opening Ceremony scheduled for July 23, we will profile an athlete with ties to Kansas City, Missouri or Kansas each day.
41 Action News and KSHB.com is your home of the Tokyo Olympics. Follow our coverage at kshb.com/sports/olympics and check out our complete list of 100 Kansas City-area Olympians as it is revealed.