One of Ty Davis’ favorite moments from his daughter Tara Davis’ prolific track career came when the Olympic long jumper was still in high school.
It was 2015 and they were at the world youth championships in Cali, Colombia, where a 16-year-old Tara won the long jump with a 21-foot leap. As she celebrated by walking around the stadium with the American flag, a group of children, whom she greeted and handed wristbands out to earlier at the meet, started chanting her name.
Ty came to a realization that day. “She’s international now,” he told Yahoo Sports, recounting the memory. “It’s more than just her jumping. It’s her personality. It’s her love of kids and people, and it just showed right then and there.”
Tara, the reigning NCAA indoor and outdoor champion in the long jump and University of Texas alumna, is now 22 and hoping to bring home some hardware from the Tokyo Games during the track and field competition. The Japan National Stadium will be mostly empty due to COVID-19 protocols, so it’s unlikely chants of her name will erupt after she jumps into the sand pit. Yet Ty, who coached Tara from 4 years old until she went to college, will be there.
At this year’s pandemic-stricken Games, having a family member in attendance is a luxury most athletes can’t enjoy. For Tara, it pays to have her dad as a coach. Because Ty is an accredited coach, he has been able to accompany her to Tokyo.
“I am so blessed that I’ll have a family member to come with me and watch me compete at the highest level of my life,” Tara told reporters ahead of the games.
Tara reaching this level wasn’t something Ty had necessarily envisioned when she first started participating in track and field. They just let things progress naturally and the competition stages gradually got bigger. High school state championship meets. Then bids at the youth world championships. NCAA championships, then the Olympic Trials, where Tara finished in the long jump. Now the Olympics.
Ty was there watching Tara when she officially made the Olympic team. All the competitors were gearing up for their last jump attempt and the reality set in for the pair that the worst Tara could get was third place. Only she did one better and secured her spot in Tokyo with a jump of 23 feet, 1.25 inches on her fifth attempt.
“It was definitely an immediate, OK-what-do-we-do-now type of feeling,” Ty said.
At 5-foot-3 and around 120 pounds, Tara is smaller than other long jumpers, but she makes up for her size by focusing on the details. From a coaching standpoint, Ty said she is very technical.
She doesn’t rely on her stature or speed, but the little things. One way Tara improves, Ty said, is by watching videos of jumps and observing how she can perfect her skills.
Tara is also coachable — and he would know. The parent-coach dynamic was never a problem for the pair.
“My dad and I, we could turn the switch off from coach and athlete to dad and daughter quickly and easily,” Tara told reporters ahead of the Olympics. “But we have this strong connection for track and a strong love for track, so we were always talking about track.”
Ty said it took luck to create that winning balance. Because Tara performed well early on, she trusted her dad as a coach and liked his approach. That synergy on the track only strengthened the father-daughter relationship, Ty said, and now they’re sharing an Olympics experience.
This is dad’s first trip to Japan. He’s bummed he won’t get to see all of the sights because of COVID-19 restrictions, yet he feels the timing is right in other ways.
Tara had just begun making her return to competition after sitting out for a stretch due to injury and eligibility rules when the pandemic hit during her junior outdoor season at Texas. It was a rough time for collegiate athletes, including Tara. Then, the 2020 Olympics were postponed to 2021.
The difference now is Tara has a magical final collegiate season under her belt and world-class marks to her name. She claims the second-longest jump in the world this year.
Tara’s Olympic bid, much like Ty’s updated coaching credentials, is just another twist of fate. Dad feels this was the path they were supposed to take.
“She wouldn’t have been on the team last year,” Ty said. “…This gave us the opportunity to be on it this year, and who knows what’s going to happen in three more years? So we’ve just got to take it as it is and try to be successful.”
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