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UB shot putter and Buffalo bred Jonathan Jones stays local in pursuit of Olympic glory

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At the 2015 outdoor NCAA Championships, UB senior shot putter Jonathan Jones set his eyes on achieving a historic first for his university. He is the first national champion in UB’s Division I program.

With his heave of 20.78 meters that day, he did just that. Jones now has a new goal: to be the first Olympian from UB.

While many Olympic hopefuls choose to move elsewhere to train full-time with a new coach, Jones decided to stay in Buffalo after graduation as he prepares for Olympic Trials.

“A lot of times people will go once they graduate college, to some training facility, or go find a new coach and totally forget what got you there from the get go,” Jones said.

On July 1, Jones will compete in Eugene, Oregon for a spot on the 2016 USA Olympic team. Jones is a Buffalo native who attended Portville High School and transferred to UB from Buffalo State. He has destroyed every expectation thus far in his UB career, becoming one of the most accomplished athletes in school history. He’s been named a six-time All-American and set the record for men’s shot put while at UB.

But the road to Olympic Trials isn’t a smooth one.

Jones said he still spends about an hour and a half every day rehabbing a knee injury that has been plaguing him since early on in his college career. He admits that he still isn’t at 100 percent and probably won’t be come July.

However, it hasn’t held him back yet. Jones won the NCAA National Championship on his bad knee and last month, he finished fifth at the 2016 World Championships. His 20.31-meter throw was the best toss of any American at the event.

Jones has not forgotten where he came from, or more specifically, who helped him get to where he is today. He admits his close relationship with UB throws coach Jim Garnham Sr. was a significant reason to stay in Buffalo to continue training.

“Jim and I have a very close relationship,” Jones said. “If he’s around here, there’s no point in me switching anything that’s not broken. You never know if it’s going bad unless you’re not doing as well as you were so, Jim and I have been going upwards with it and we’ve gotten better every year, so might as well keep doing it.”

The path to becoming an Olympian is unlike anything else in professional sports. Many Olympic hopefuls train two to three times a day, often without pay, making it near impossible for them to pick up another job in their pursuit.

Jones, however, has picked up a paid sponsorship from Dick’s Sporting Goods, which has a “Contenders” series that highlights the tough journeys of Olympic hopefuls with unique stories.

“They’re basically helping out and giving athletes, Olympic hopefuls, jobs with competitive pay and really flexible hours,” Jones said. “The way I train and the way I compete, I’m all over the place so it’d be hard for me to keep a job right now with those standards.”

Darien Johnson, a senior communication major, is another UB Olympic hopeful who plans to stay local for a few more years before traveling elsewhere to train for the games.

“Every time I see him, that’s one of the people that had a lot of big expectations of me,” Johnson said. “He was here when I was weak, when I came in and I wasn’t as strong as I was, to where I became the strongest runner in school history. He does believe in me.”

Even if he doesn’t make this year’s Olympic team, Jones plans on trying again in four years, with the entire UB community behind him.

“It would mean the world to be able to represent USA, and not only USA, but also UB and my hometown.”

Olympic Trials for shot put will take place in Eugene, Oregon on July 1.

Micheal Akelson is the senior sports editor and can be reached at sports@ubspectrum.com


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