Updated 5 March 2008
Maurren Higa MAGGI, Brazil (Long Jump)
Born 25 June 1976, Sao Carlos, Sao Paulo state, Brazil; 1.73m, 62kg
Lives in Sao Paulo
Coach: Nélio Alfano Moura
Club: Clube de Atletismo BM&F (BM&F Athletics Club)
Maurren Higa Maggi, a young girl who loved plush dolls, used to be the best athlete in Brazil, and even the leader of the world rankings in the long jump. Everybody, and especially her, expected her to be an Olympic champion. But she failed a doping test in 2003 and was out of competition for two years, missing the 2004 Athens Olympics. People thought she would not compete any more but she came back in 2005 and showed that she could still attain her ultimate goal.
Maggi was born in Sao Carlos, a town close to Sao Paulo, one of the biggest cities in the world. Although her parents were not high performance athletes, they were pleased that their three children, William, Maurren and Jefferson, were interested in practicing sports. From the age of 7, their daughter loved competing at volleyball, swimming, gymnastics, athletics, table tennis, and even chess.
Maurren’s parents always supported her early ambitions. That was the why it took Nélio Alfano Moura, the coach who guided her to international level, some time before talking to her. “Nelio saw me around in 1992,” Maggi recalled. “But he thought my father was my coach because he was always cheering me, so he didn’t want to act in an anti-ethical manner. When he finally found out that he was only my father, he asked me to join Projeto Futuro programme (development programme)”.
Maggi decided to move to Sao Paulo in 1994 to start her athletics career. From that moment she changed her life. She lived and trained at the Ibirapuera Park and spent every day focused on athletics. She fell in love with the long jump from the very beginning but found herself being selected for the 100m hurdles because there were many better jumpers than her. In 1996, Maggi joined BM&F Athletics Club, and started to develop in both events.
In 1999 Maggi experienced the first big impact in her career when winning the South American Championships, in Bogotá, with an astonishing jump of 7.26. This mark put her among the top 10 jumpers all time. Only two months later, she won the long jump gold medal at the Pan American Games, in Winnipeg, and silver in the 100m hurdles. These performances caught the media’s eye. “Everything was new to me at Winnipeg,” she said. “It was the first time that I traveled with a complete Brazilian delegation, where everyone was looking forward to succeeding. It was great since it was my first huge experience related to sport.”
After those Games, Maggi became famous in her country, and started to be invited to many events. “I was a quite well known person, so I had the possibility to meet some actors, artists and other celebrities, people that I had hardly knew before”, she explained. She didn’t earn as much money as those famous people, but she was happy to be able to share time with them. Her nails - painted in green and yellow - became as famous as her medals.
In 2000, Maggi jumped near the 7-metre barrier again, and became a medal favorite for the Olympic Games in Sydney. But she was injured during the qualification round, and had to quit the competition. She left the stadium in tears. “I was enjoying the best moment of my career, even better than Winnipeg. I’d never thought that something like that could happen to me. It was so terrible that I’ve never wanted to watch my jump on TV, because I thought it would be more difficult for me psychologically to recover”.
Maggi got over it well, however. The early competitions were difficult for her but, in 2001, she reached the top ranking position again, and became a podium candidate for the World Championships, in Edmonton. “I had very bad luck at that tournament,” she recalled. “All the competitors jumped with the help of the wind, but, during my attempts, the direction of the wind always changed.” Maggi finished 7th.
In 2002, Maggi experienced “the best season of my career”. With consistent jumps all year, she won the Ibero-American Championships, in Guatemala, the Grand Prix Final, in Paris, and finished second in the World Cup, in Madrid. She used to spend some months in the Netherlands, where she lived while competing in the European season.
Everything seemed to be fine for Maggi at the beginning of 2003. At the World Indoor Championships, in Birmingham, she won the bronze medal, the first podium place achieved by a Brazilian woman at any senior athletics World Championships. In April, she established the South American triple jump record (14.53), so she had, at that moment, three South American outdoor records: 100m hurdles, long and triple jump (countryman Keila da Silva Costa jumped 14.57 in 2007).
But she tested positive during the Trofeo Brasil for the steroid clostebol, and she was sanctioned with a 2-year suspension. She said that the banned substance appeared in her test because she had used a hair-remover cream. After that, she stopped training for a while and moved to a quiet town.
However, Maurren found the strength enough to carry on when she met F1 driver Antonio Pizzonia, from Manaus, whom she married. In December 2004, they gave birth to a daughter, Sophia, and decided to leave Manaus and move to Monaco.
Although some people thought that she would not come back, Maggi did not give up. She returned to train with Moura at the beginning of 2006, and competed in the South America region some weeks later. She reached a season’s best of 6.84 in Bogotá and confirmed that she would prepare herself for the following year’s Pan American Games.
In 2007, back to daily training in company of Sophia, she again was in great shape. She reached 6.94, and won the South American Championships in Sao Paulo (6.91), and Pan American Games in Rio de Janeiro (6.84), regaining her title from Winnipeg 1999.
Meanwhile, she kept on improving her international performance. At the World Championship qualification in Osaka, she got her SB 6.95, and finished 6th in the final with 6.80. “I got all these achievements as a result of my determination,” she said. “I managed to be back to my level after three years out of track.”
At the begging of 2008 season, success went with her. She won the Stuttgart meeting with 6.87, improving her South American indoor record and establishing her as one of the best five long jumpers of the indoor season. So that made her think that she could repeat her Birmingham 2003 podium.
However, Maggi’s main career goal now is an Olympic medal. She does not have one from Sydney or in Athens, so she is focused completely on Beijing 2008. At that time, she would be 32 years old. “I’m not afraid of that. Heike Drechsler won the Olympic title at the age of 35, so everything is possible,” she said.
Long Jump: 7.26a (1999); 6.87i (2008)
Triple Jump: 14.53 (2003)
100mH: 12.71 (2001)
60mH: 8.12 (2000)
LJ: 1997: 6.54; 1998: 6.42; 1999: 7.26a; 2000: 6.93; 2001: 6.94/6.98w; 2002: 7.02/7.17w; 2003: 7.06/6.70i; 2006: 6.84a; 2007: 6.95; 2008: 6.87i
1997 1st South American Championships (Mar del Plata) 6.54
1999 1st South American Championships (Bogotá) 7.26a
1st Pan American Games (Winnipeg) 6.59
8th World Championships (Sevilla) 6.68
2000 1st Ibero-American Championships (Rio de Janeiro) 6.70
q Olympic Games (Sydney)
2001 1st South American Championships (Manaus) 6.69
1st University Games (Palma de Mallorca) 6.83
7th World Championships (Edmonton) 6.74
1st Goodwill Games (Brisbane) 6.94
2002 1st Ibero-American Championships (Guatemala) 6.97a
1st Grand Prix Final (Paris) 7.02
2nd World Cup (Madrid) 6.81
2003 3rd World Indoor Championships (Birmingham) 6.70i
2006 1st South American Grand Prix (Bogotá) 6.84a
2007 1st South American Championships (Sao Paulo) 6.91
1st Pan American Games (Rio de Janeiro) 6.84
6th World Championships (Osaka) 6.80 (6.95q)
2008 1st Stuttgart 6.87i (AR)
1997 2nd South American Championships (Mar del Plata) 13.65
1999 1st South American Championships (Bogotá) 13.07
2nd Pan American Games (Winnipeg) 12.86
2001 1st South American Championships (Manaus) 12.71
2nd University Games (Palma de Mallorca)
2nd Goodwill Games (Brisbane)
Prepared by Víctor Pochat for the IAAF ‘Focus on Athletes’ project. Copyright IAAF 2008.