Charles Austin was forced to clear an Olympic Games record height on his final attempt to win high jump gold in 1996. The odds were against him, but it wasn’t the first time – Austin was told by four separate doctors years earlier that he would never jump again following a knee injury. But Austin persevered through it all and will take a resume that includes the 1996 Olympic gold medal, Olympic Games record and the American record into the 2012 National Track & Field Hall of Fame. Austin will be honored as a modern athlete on Saturday, December 1, at the Jesse Owens Hall of Fame ceremony, which is held in conjunction with the USATF Annual Meeting in Daytona Beach, Fla. USA Track & Field caught up with Austin in this Q & A.
What are you looking forward to the most about being inducted into the National Track & Field Hall of Fame?
“It’s a great honor. When I started my career, I didn’t really look at this as something I was striving to do. I just wanted to be the best that I could be and perform at the highest level where I can win. The accolades that come with that are all great. As far as the hall of fame, I am really honored to be a part of that.”
Was this an honor that surprised you to receive?
“Honestly, I looked at what I have done over my career and looked at the people that have been inducted and my accomplishments speak for themselves. When it was brought to my attention a couple of years ago, someone asked me about being inducted into the hall of fame and if I thought I would be in there, I think based on what I have done it may happen. It wasn’t something that I was banking on or really looking forward to. I figured if it happens it happens. I am very honored to be inducted as it is another great accomplishment. I’m happy with it.”
How are you keeping yourself busy these days?
“I have a sports performance and personal training business that I have been doing since 2001. I’m working with a lot of athletes; younger kids and individuals that want to lose weight or are recovering from a major injury or something like that. I’m working there with individuals helping them to accomplish their fitness goals.
You have a lot to choose from, but what is your best memory from your hall of fame career?
“The one I would say would be winning the Olympics. Having to come back from an injury where four different doctors said my career was over and not being able to get into some meets because people never thought I would jump again. Then to come back and work hard and win the Olympics with how I won it, having to jump the Olympic record on my last attempt, that proved a lot mentally for me. It was a great boost for me that whatever I put my mind to there is a great chance I am going to accomplish it. I would say that was the highlight just because all of the different factors that happened along that journey.”
You’re the American record holder at 7-10.5. Is that a record that you see being broken in the near future?
“I see my son breaking it. He is showing great talent. He has fallen in love with the high jump and physically he is ahead of where I was at his age and he is very new to the event. He is taller. He is six-foot-six with great jumping ability. As he continues to develop that passion for the event, I feel very confident that he will get there. With my help and me pushing him I feel he will go a lot higher.”
How old is your son?
“He is 19 and at Baylor University.”
Following the induction ceremony December 1, you can be known as National Track & Field Hall of Famer Charles Austin. What does that mean for you?
“It means a lot. Not only for me, but I look at all of the guys I have competed with and established friendships with. Those guys helped move me and helped me get to that level. Because I looked up to them and at competitions they gave me lots of advice. It’s not only a reflection on me, it’s a reflection on all of my friends and competitors that helped me get to that level. It’s a great accomplishment and I am excited. I’m very happy and honored.”
Click here to download audio