Mid-South Olympian Shelby McEwen preparing for first appearance at Tokyo Games

Published: Jul. 28, 2021 at 12:19 AM CDT
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ABBEVILLE, Miss. (WMC) - From a street that bears his name to the world stage, it’s been a long road and high jump to the 2020 Olympic Games for Mid-South athlete Shelby McEwen.

Shelby McEwen is representing Team USA in the men’s high jump later this week. It’s his first Olympic Games.

Tattooed across Shelby McEwen’s chest is “Family is Forever”.

“Because I know I can always count on my people. My main people, my mom, my dad, my niece, my aunt, she’s here all the way, I know I can count on family,” he said.

Shelby McEwen learned from a young age the importance of roots, growing up on a street in Abbeville, Mississippi where every single house belongs to family members.

“I know I have a place to always lay my head at home. Whether that’s at this house or anywhere on this road with anybody. I know I have a place to sleep comfortable and lay my head,” said Shelby McEwen.

This year, the street was renamed Shelby Lane, in honor of his success as a high jumper on the world stage. The pride of his family beams from the flags hanging outside every house.

Inside his childhood home, his Dad, Michael McEwen is at a loss for words when he talks about his Olympian son.

“It makes water come to my eyes to just talk about it, because you don’t find many fathers who can say my son’s going to the Olympics. And I’m so honored to have him going. It’s great. I wouldn’t take it no other way,” said Michael McEwen.

Shelby McEwen’s family has taken every step with him on his road to Tokyo.

His mom, Sharon McEwen, even took on the role of trainer this year because the pandemic prevented him from being with his coach in Louisville.

But the lessons he’s applying today, are the ones his parents taught him as a young boy.

“I always told them, look, you’re leaders you’re not followers,” said Sharon McEwen. “I said find yourself, find out what you want to do in life. And when you find out what you want to do and find yourself, you go and do it.”

“I learned a lot from my pops growing up, working in the yard, going out working on tin roofs,” Shelby McEwen said. “That physically made me a lot stronger too, mentally and knowing I know how to get up and do work.”

That’s the thing. When you catch a kid like Shelby, that goes out every day to do that. He’s got to get something great out of it because he puts it on himself to do it,” said Michael McEwen.

The support extends past his parent’s house. He gets it from his aunts, uncles, and niece too.

“I tell him to speed up and make sure his butt doesn’t touch the bar,” said Faith Robinson.

“We’ve always been grounded. Shelby is very grounded. That’s just the dynamics of our family. We were just raised that way. So, we’re proud of him. We are proud of him,” Shae Burnett said.

Although the McEwen family can’t be in Tokyo because of the Olympics’ COVID-19 restrictions, the fact they’re all able to watch Shelby McEwen compete at all is something they’re thankful for.

In April, Michael McEwen was rushed to the hospital for a collapsed lung. Doctors told him he got there just in time.

“God is good,” he said. “I had lung surgery. Couldn’t have been here, but God kept me here. I’m very proud, yep.”

Three months after his surgery, Michael will be watching his son jump in Tokyo from their home on Shelby Lane.

“It brings water to my eyes because I’m doing good. God’s been good to me, he’s been good to my family. We can’t ask for nothing no better and when you get that, what more can you ask for. God and a good family and do what you do. Like I told him, go do your job. It’s a job for him. Just like I go to my job, it’s his job. Go do your job,” said Michael McEwen.

Before each jump, Shelby tells himself to have fun and clear one bar at a time.

To do that on the Olympic stage would be a reflection of everything he’s been taught.

“And that’ll just be just another life-changing moment, another life-changing experience, something else I always knew I was capable of going to do. It’s just all about going out on that day and having fun,” said Shelby McEwen.

“It’s very special. He worked hard for it. He deserved to be where he is. No one gave him anything. He worked for it and it’s unbelievable,” Sharon McEwen said.

I’m probably going to pass out,” said Michael McEwen. “I told him if he goes and comes back with a medal, I’m probably going to retire early. That’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to go ahead and retire early. I’m going to follow him around doing what he do. I’ll just walk behind him every day.”

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