I BECAME A TRIPLE JUMPER BECAUSE I WAS GOOD & ENJOYED IT
That’s the simple reason. I’ve always been sporty. I loved playing every sport but, when I tried the triple jump in primary school, the connection was instant. Everyone could see it - even me! For years, I practised all types of athletics before deciding to specialise in the triple jump, aged 15. The turning point was when my school entered me in a national competition. I had to compete against 10,000 of the best young athletes in the country and, even though I hadn’t trained, I won a medal. Suddenly I thought ‘Oh, this is really cool. Let’s give it a go.’
‘It’s really important top promote being confident in your own skin, especially to young people. Sport is such a powerful way to encourage this. We all have different body types, skills and talents but we’re all fit and healthy.’
SPORT, EVOLUTIONARY ADAPTATION & CHANNELING ENERGY
Triple jump was a natural inclination for me. As a child, I’d run halfway down the stairs and jump off. I was always trying to run as fast as I could and jump over things. I was very hyperactive too so sports were a great way for me to positively channel that energy. It helps so many people, not just health-wise but mentally, emotionally and by enhancing concentration span too. In that way, sport was always going to be the perfect career for me.
‘Everybody has different talents. Some people are good at sport, some people are academic, others are good at art or drama… As you get older, you learn to trust your instincts but, when you’re at school, it can be difficult to find people to relate to, who understand what you’re good at and help you to nurture those talents – especially in non-mainstream activities. That’s why, as athletes, we try to spend as much time as we can giving talks, workshops and training with kids at schools. It gives them someone tangible to connect with. They think ‘He’s here and he did it, maybe I can too’ and that’s so important.’
A GREAT TRIPLE JUMPER NEEDS TO HAVE…
1. SPEED. They say that speed kills so the best triple jumpers are those who are able to maintain the most speed. It’s easier to maintain speed if you’re coming in with speed so that’s definitely important to work on. Jonathan Edwards is a great example. He’s held the World Record for 21 years and is probably one of the fastest triple jumpers on record for 60m, among other events.
2. POWER & EXPLOSIVENESS are really important. You need to be fast, explosive, agile and quick on your feet. Essentially, the key to triple jump is how far and fast you can move your body. That’s it.
3. COORDINATION. This is vital for safety if nothing else. Without it, there’s an extremely high chance you’ll get injured.
‘Having spoken to so many different athletes, we’re finding that coordination is totally different for every sport. It’s a very subjective thing.’ Yes, definitely. You can be well coordinated for one sport and total clueless at another.
‘It’s surprising but very few people actually know what the triple jump is, especially with the hop, skip and jump so there aren’t many misconceptions. I was coached to hop really big. I think that’s the way forward. Pardon the pun!'
WHAT IS THE TRIPLE JUMP?
Put simply, the triple jump can be defined as 3 separate bounds. It’s quite complicated in that you take off on one leg and land on the other but after that it’s very simple because you switch legs and then switch legs again. The easiest way to explain it is… I take off on my strongest leg (which is my left); land on my strongest leg (left); go on to my other leg (right); and then land on two feet in the sand. It’s quite simple but, unless you see it, it can sound complicated.
I CAN JUMP…
My PB is 16m 61. 17m is considered World Class and 16.80m qualifies you for the World Championships and the Olympics. I’ve still got a little way to go but I’m breaking it down all the time.
BEST 3 DRILLS FOR BEGINNERS
1. ‘RUNNING’ KNEE HIGHS. This is the first drill I ever learnt and it's really simple. You look like you’re running but you’re actually exaggerating your knee lifts at a fast pace. Up and down, up and down… Research shows that the higher you lift your knees, the longer your strides will be so, as a triple jumper, I still practice these a lot.
2. HIGH SKIPS. They simulate your take off.
3. THE TRIPLE JUMP because, if you want to be a triple jumper, you you actually need to learn how to triple jump.
TIPS TO IMPROVE JUMP POWER & TECHNIQUE
Our training is intense but it’s not complicated. If you do lots of explosive training (e.g. short sprints over 20-30-40m), heavy weight training (e.g. Olympic lifts, cleans, hand cleans, squats etc.) and lots and lots of jumping, you’ll definitely see improvements. We jump all the time.
‘The steps aren’t enough. You need to feel the music’ Patrick Swayze. Dirty Dancing.
DON’T THINK, JUST DO
As triple jumpers, we spend half our training sessions repeating drills over and over again. It’s monotonous but that’s the only real way to alter your technique, add distance, power and everything else you need to succeed. It needs to become part of you, ingrained in you so that when you’re on the runway about to compete, you don’t think; you just do. The likelihood is that, if you’re thinking about what you need to do, you’re not running very fast so, at competitions, I never think about what I’m doing. The plan is that, over the 9 months of training, all of that should be drilled into me. Drills are vital.
TIPS FOR AVOIDING INJURY
The simple answer: learn safe technique and understand what the triple jump is. I see so many athletes, especially in club athletics, doing triple jump purely to accumulate points but that’s very dangerous. Falling during the triple jump or even doing it incorrectly is extremely ugly and painful so learning safe technique before participating is vital. We’re also renowned for having bad knees because we put so much pressure on them, especially on the hop legs. Strength and conditioning training will help to protect them, as will regularly strapping both them and your ankles up with tape.
THE 2008 OLYMPICS INSPIRED ME
The Olympic Games is the biggest inspiration for me; for any athlete. The 2008 Olympics was the first Olympics I really took notice of. Watching it, I definitely knew ‘Yes, that’s for me. I definitely want to make it.’ At the time, I was in the British Athletics System so watching people I’d trained alongside at the track competing on that stage for our country was amazing. It’s still one of my biggest inspirations but, even being in the athletic circle, it still surprises me just how hard it can be. All athletes work so hard so, when they achieve success, they 100% deserve it.
One of my training partners used to say ‘Look, there are so many downs in this sport that when you do get your ups, celebrate them.’ At that time, I was on a high so I never really understood what he meant until later on but he was right.
‘Yes, definitely because people see all of the crazy good stuff that happens, even with what I do, and they don’t see that, when it gets tough, you’re the one sitting there doing it all the time, digging deep… And that’s the difference, I think, between people who succeed and don’t, they’re willing to do the boring bits.’
THE POWER OF SPORT TO UNITE THE WORLD
Watching Usain Bolt at the London 2012 Olympics inspired me. Not necessarily during his race because he trained at the same track as me at Brunel University so I’d seen him running regularly, but in the way he captivated the audience and completely transformed the atmosphere of the entire stadium. I’ve never been star struck in my life but, when I saw him come out for the 200m final, it was like magic. I looked around and everyone was standing up, all the lights were going off and the atmosphere completely changed. It just thought ‘Wow! This is really it.’ Even though he wasn’t British, it didn’t matter; everyone was behind him. I’ve never experienced anything like it so that was a big surprise for me.
I love how the Olympics and sport in general brings people together. Being at home in London and witnessing how dramatically the atmosphere changed, it really hit home just how powerful it is. Usually, when you’re sitting on a train, no one really talks to each other but, during the Olympics, everyone was smiling and in a great mood. I felt proud to be British.
I WISH SOMEONE HAD TOLD ME…
I wouldn’t have listened to them but I wish someone had told me not to take sport too seriously when I was younger. I can be quite intense, which is good because I’m committed but, at the same time, when things are going badly it can affect you a lot more than someone who is laidback. Sport’s supposed to be enjoyable, as is life, so the most important thing is to have fun when you’re training. Relax a little bit more.
FAVOURITE ATHLETE TO COMPETE AGAINST
Nathan Fox is my biggest rival. We’ve grown up competing against each other and he’s a great competitor. He’s also a very good friend of mine now haha so it’s always fun to compete against him when we’re both at our best. I’d love to compete against some of the sprinters too, especially Maurice Green and Usain Bolt because I’ve always felt that they’re more than sprinters. They’re very charismatic and bring a lot of energy to the competition.
FAVOURITE INSPIRATIONAL QUOTE
An ex-coach used to say ‘Work hard in the winter, show off in the summer.’ As athletes, we train constantly for 9 months of the year and compete for 2-3 but, though short, those 2-3 months can be amazing because we’re finally out there competing around the world. This means ‘Embrace it. Show off what you’ve done… The harder you work, the more you can show off so don’t complain.’