Long-Jumper Jeff Henderson Fulfills Promise of Bringing Gold Home to Bedridden Mother
Diagnosed with Alzheimer's 10 years ago, Jeff Henderson's mother was all the motivation he needed at the Rio Olympics
Jeff Henderson lived up to his promise.
Prior to competing in the men’s long jump at the 2016 Summer Olympics, the 27-year-old track and field star promised he would win the gold for his mother – who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s 10 years ago.
With KARK by his side, Henderson visited his parent’s Arkansas-home before the Games and told his mother his plan.
Bedridden for four years and believed to be in the final stages of the disease by doctors, Debra wasn’t able to verbally respond to Henderson. His father, Laverne, remained home to take care of his ailing wife during the Games.
But both were no doubt watching on Saturday when he became the first U.S. man to win an Olympic long jump title since Dwight Phillips in 2004.
His best jump – 8.38-meters (27 feet, 6 inches) was just one centimeter better than silver-medalist Luvo Manyonga’s mark. Greg Rutherford, the 2012 Olympic champion, claimed the bronze.
Speaking after the competition, Henderson dedicated the win to his mother.
“The medal is just for her,” he told NBC News after his win. “She’s the one who raised me when I was young. She got sick when I was 17, 18 years old. It was hard for me to do that, and leave her there. Everything I did was for her. It was for God, for her and my family.”
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On Wednesday, Henderson returned to his family home in Arkansas – where he gave his mother the gold he always said he would.
Again with KARK by his side, Henderson laid the medal on her bed – which was draped with an American flag on it.
“I want to put the medal on your head but I don’t want to hurt you,” he told her.
The emotional moment left the Olympian speechless. “[It’s] hard to explain, hard to put that in worlds,” he told KARK. “Emotions were like – I don’t know… hard to explain…”
Henderson’s dad was able to clarify. “It’s something we’ve been looking forward to and I really wanted to see his mother’s face,” he explained. “When she sees him, she just follows him.”
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But Henderson was not done making promises.
“Next on my list is to give my dad what he wanted all along: A brand new house for him and my mom,” he tweeted on Sunday.
His father shouldn’t rule him out there. After all, Henderson has been known to come through with his promises.