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One of the state’s strongest contenders for a gold medal at the Summer Olympics will be San Marcos high jumper Charles Austin. That’s assuming that the 24-year-old Austin, the reigning world champion in the high jump, makes the team at the Olympic trials in late June. He is one of only two Americans ever to have cleared the bar at 7 feet 10 inches—and just four men in history have jumped higher than his personal best. Austin won the 1991 world title with a 7-foot-93⁄4-inch jump in Tokyo last September, an effort that he remembers as being “just a lot of fun.” How does he do it? Austin says, “I’m blessed.” To take the gold at the Olympics, he will have to top—as he did in Tokyo—Cuban rival Javier Sotomayor, 24, who holds the world record with an 8-foot jump in 1989. Austin’s a star at European meets, where his modesty endears him to crowds that lionize track and field champs. He has also become a celebrity in Japan, where fans clamor for any souvenir: “autographs, shoes, clothing, anything,” says Austin. Only in San Marcos, where he earned a business degree from Southwest Texas State University, can Austin train in peace. Not that the enormous Olympics crowds will make him nervous. “The bigger the meet,” says Austin, “the better I perform.”