Olympic hopeful Avion Jones hates high jumping.
The American Athletic Conference high jump champion, owner of the second-best jump in the world this year, has earned the right to compete in the event at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro this summer. But the East Carolina University star would rather play hoops.
"I hate it, I really do," Jones said about high jumping. "I hate every second of it. A lot of people don’t understand that high jump is really difficult. I’ve felt all along I could get a 7 foot, 7 inch jump and that’s why I get so frustrated. But something would go wrong every time. Playing basketball takes my mind and frustration off of high jump. That way when I go do it, I’m more relaxed."
In May, Jones garnered national attention after recording a 7-foot, 7-inch jump during the American Athletic Conference championship. It was deemed the highest jump by any NCAA athlete during the 2016 season.
But even more significant, the feat earned Jones an instant invitation to the Olympic Trials set to take place July 8 in Eugene, OR. If he places in the top-three while battling a blend of collegiate stars and professional jumpers, the ECU standout will represent the United States in the Summer Olympics kicking off Aug 5.
Jones may not have high jump at the top of his sports hierarchy, but he has worked meticulously to put himself in a position to compete on the world’s biggest stage.
"For me, really all my training is done in the weight room." Jones said. "I’m doing lunges, power cleans, olympic lifts, and then I’ll jump like once or twice a week. But I try not to jump too much."
Even with the Olympics at the forefront of his mind, the former point guard can’t part ways with his love for basketball.
"Basketball is a huge part of my workout," Jones said. "We only have one indoor facility at ECU, so it can be pretty hard to practice depending on the weather. In college, my practice would be playing basketball every day. Then I would go to the track meet and jump."
In August, Jones will watch as Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant don the red, white, and blue for Team USA. The ECU will do the same, but in a different capacity. He won't get to sink three-pointers for the Dream Team, but he will get a chance to compete at the highest level of any sport.
Even if he hates every minute of it.