Abbeville’s Shelby McEwen to represent Olympic Team USA in men’s high jump

Shelby McEwen
Shelby McEwen(WMC)
Published: Jun. 30, 2021 at 11:52 AM CDT
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ABBEVILLE, Miss. (WMC) - The Olympics are just three weeks away. Mississippi’s Shelby McEwen will represent Team USA in the men’s high jump in Tokyo.

It was a small street in Abbeville, Mississippi where McEwen grew up. Playing outside in his backyard.

“Probably around my second-grade year, I figured out, ‘wow, I can jump,’” said McEwen.

“We bought him a trampoline. Shelby got out there one day jumping, jumping, jumping; he busts his head wide open, burst it wide open,” said McEwen’s mom Sharon. “We took him to the hospital, he came back, got back out there, and burst it again. I knew then, at that time he could jump.”

Shelby’s first love was basketball. He was dunking in games by the time he was in 8th grade. In high school, he was on the Oxford High School Track and Field team, but put more time into basketball. Playing AAU ball that took him around the country. Including Vegas, where he proved to the world, he had hops.

Winning the 2014 Jordan Brand dunk contest.

“When I took off from the FT line, I told myself I was just going to take off not knowing I’d take off behind the line, that was a life-changer right there. That changed my life that day,” said McEwen.

He went the JUCO route to play basketball at Northwest Mississippi but still had track & field in the back of his mind. He’d compete unattached at different college meets and eventually realized he had a future in the high jump.

“That’s when the offers started pouring in,” he said. “I always told myself, wherever I went I would stay in the SEC coming out of JUCO. I knew then It was time for me to take the T&F route.”

“I said you’re great in basketball, but I said, ‘son, to get that division one scholarship, get that education, go ahead and take the track and field, because you’re already way up here in track,’' said Sharon.

McEwen committed to Alabama where he became a two-time SEC Champion and National Champion in the high jump.

After graduating he started training for the Olympics at the University of Louisville. But when COVID-19 hit, he went back home to Mississippi to train.

“It was a huge transition. I had to face a little adversity,” said McEwen. “I kind of struggled indoor, but I had to quit making excuses and just go out and get it done. Knew who was on my side the whole time.”

His mom and dad were the ones to help keep him on the path to Tokyo.

Every Sunday, Shelby’s coach in Louisville would send him workouts for the week. Sharon would go out to the track with him every day to help her son train.

“Being mom, I totally panicked for about a month or two,” she said. “Then I said, ‘OK I can do this. I’d rather do this than him go out and be around a bunch of people.’”

Together they saw the work pay off.

In May, Shelby set a personal record -- clearing 2.33 meters. He’s now the third-ranked high jumper in the world. This is what he said last week before the Olympic trials.

“I have the Olympic standard going in, that’s a stress off my back,” he said. “Looking forward to going out shocking the world, competing hard, making the top three, making the Olympic team.”

Shelby doing just that. Finishing in third place in the men’s high jump finals to make Team USA in the Tokyo Olympics making his dreams come true.

WMC Action News 5 is your Olympics station to catch all the action at the Tokyo games.

It all begins July 23rd right here.

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