12 MAY 2013 Feature Doha, Qatar

Reese ready to reach her destiny after Doha

Brittney Reese sails out to 7.25m in the Long Jump at the 2013 Doha Diamond League (Errol Anderson)Brittney Reese sails out to 7.25m in the Long Jump at the 2013 Doha Diamond League (Errol Anderson) © Copyright

There was an early sense that the opening IAAF Diamond League meeting of the season was going to produce some rich performances when Sandra Perkovic sent the Discus out to a world-leading 67.37m, and later improved to 68.23m; that set the tone for the evening in Doha despite the temperature gradually falling and a warm and gusting wind making life unpredictable for the long jumpers, triple jumpers and javelin throwers.

Perkovic’s opening flourish was soon mirrored in the Long Jump, with Nigeria’s Blessing Okagbare producing a second round effort of 7.14m that would have topped the 2013 world list but for a following wind of 2.2m/s.

In the meantime, the reigning Olympic and World champion Brittney Reese was suffering her almost traditional troubles with her opening efforts as the American recorded fouls in the first two rounds. However, it all came together for her as speed married height equalled distance, and she landed in the pit at 7.25m.

Her huge leap added six centimetres to her previous outdoor best, set two years ago in Eugene, and was two centimetres better than her absolute best of 7.23m she set last year in Istanbul when she became the first woman to win back-to-back titles at the IAAF World Indoor Championships.

It was also the longest jump in the world for nearly nine years.

After picking herself out of the sand she clearly knew she had produced something special and as the figures quickly confirmed it she clenched her fists in acknowledgement.

Two days before the meeting, Reese had toured the 'Olympics – Past and Present' exhibition currently established in Doha, accompanied by fellow athletes Allyson Felix, Christian Taylor and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce.

The studious looking Reese was quietly absorbed throughout, smiling occasionally, and in particular when the guide described how in ancient times, the sand and oil scraped from the bodies of Olympic champions was collected and used as a potion for up-and-coming athletes.

She, like the other three, entered a modern day simulation of Olympia as a real Olympic champion. But this season Reese has ambitions outside the Olympic rings as she explained before the competition in Doha got underway, underlining her intention to win a third consecutive outdoor World title.

Having started her season with an effort of 6.81m at a meeting on the campus at her alma mater of the University of Mississippi, where she was not just an outstanding athlete but one of their top basketball players, the way she has shifted gear to her new level suggests that the gold in Moscow could be hers for the taking.

Russian rivals will be ready

She acknowledges that rivals such the Russian jumpers, Okagbare and fellow American, the London 2012 Olympic Games bronze medallist Janay Deloach Soukup - who also took good advantage of the wind here as she finished third in Doha as well with a fifth-round effort of 7.08m - will make that difficult, but it’s a far from an impossible dream that she could become the first woman to win a hat trick of gold medals in the event, with herself and three other women having won twice.

She also confirmed an additional goal for 2013 is, “to break the US record.”

Reese will need to find another 25cm to better the mark of 7.49m set by Jackie Joyner-Kersee in New York 19 years ago, although just another four centimetres would take her past the World record of 7.52m set in 1988 by Russia’s Galina Chistyakova.

“Had a great start to my year as I jumped 7.25 here in Doha,” she wrote on her Facebook page. “That is a new personal best for me and I am beyond excited about the rest of the year.”

Reese recently changed her training base in an effort to improve her chances of a third World title and a decent shot at Joyner-Kersee’s impressive US record this year. “I moved to San Diego, California because the facilities there are better. I have more opportunities to train outdoors because the weather is better,” she explained.

She plans to compete at one more Diamond League meeting before the US Championships in June, where she plans to earn selection for Moscow and then attempt to extend her domination of the Long Jump, which has been in place since 2009.

Can she do it? Well, a selection of her recent posts on social media sites suggest that if positive thinking has anything to do with it, it is merely a formality.

“Don’t step backward towards nothing, step forward toward something, better awkward steps forward than coward steps backwards!

“If you choke your potential before it has an opportunity to become a possibility you will never reach your destiny.

“The greatest thing about dreams is they don’t expire. They can lay dormant for years and when you pull them out and dust them off they shine like new.”

Mike Rowbottom for the IAAF