Pride of Port Arthur: Locals gather to cheer on hometown favorite jumper in Rio Games

Published 11:31 pm Saturday, August 20, 2016

Inika McPherson’s dream of being an Olympic gold medalist did not go the way the 2005 Port Arthur Memorial wanted it.

She finished tied for 10th out of 17 jumpers in Rio de Janeiro, and that is perfectly OK with the city of Port Arthur and its residents.

“We are so proud of her,” the Rev. Thurman Bartie said. “She represented America in this Olympiad. That is a success in itself.”

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Why does the city of Port Arthur love McPherson so much? It is because everyone loves a comeback story, and hers is one of the best around.

She is coming off a nearly two-year competition ban for testing positive for benzoylecgonine, a metabolite of cocaine. The month before, she had just won the U.S. outdoor national championship.

“It was a recreational drug,” McPherson said in an earlier story. “It was the wrong place at the wrong time. Surrounding myself with the right people in the right places really made a difference.”

So, Port Arthur got behind one of its own Saturday at Buffalo Wild Wings to watch the city’s favorite Olympian.

“She still made us proud,” PAISD school board member Dr. Thomas Kinlaw III said. “She is a bounce-back story for everyone. She came back, made the Olympics and then made it to the finals. Inika proved perseverance and hard work can put you where you need to be. She made this city proud.”

Port Arthur also loves McPherson because her size also would tell so-called experts she should never make the finals in the high jumps in any Olympics.

McPherson stands 5 feet, 4 inches tall. Compare that to Spain’s Ruth Beitia, who won gold Saturday, who is 6-1.

“Inika is such an inspiration to all the kids in Port Arthur,” Bartie said. “We have so much negativity said about our city and she gives us something positive. She gives you some hope. Our youth can inspire to be her one day.”

There was a good number of people at Buffalo Wild Wings Saturday, many really there to get a good table in time for the night’s UFC pay-per-view, but once McPherson was on TV, the entire restaurant was cheering for the local product.

“It is exciting,” Phillip Bollinger of Port Neches said. “We came here for UFC but then learned what that table was watching and we can’t help but cheer for her. If you make it to the Olympic finals, you are a champion. That is the end of story. She is a champion no matter what place she finished in.”

Gabriel Pruett: 721-2436. Twitter: @PaNewGabe

About Gabriel Pruett

Gabriel Pruett has worked with both the Port Arthur News and Orange Leader since 2000. A majority of the time has been spent covering all aspects of Southeast Texas high school sports. Pruett's claim to fame is...being able to write his own biographical information for this website.

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