28 AUG 2011 General News Daegu, Korea

Reese - Walking in the footsteps of idol Joyner-Kersee

Brittney Reese defends her World Championships Long Jump title  (Getty Images)Brittney Reese defends her World Championships Long Jump title (Getty Images) © Copyright

With a 'One Jump Show’ Brittney Reese took the world title in Daegu. But this unique women’s Long Jump victory at the World Championships was of course not planned.


“I have never won a competition with just one valid jump,” said the 24 year-old American from Gulfport, Mississippi, who had five invalid attempts during the competition after her initial 6.82m leap. Reese won the first gold medal for the USA at the World Championships and she successfully defended her title from Berlin 2009.


What she had planned was to start with a good jump.


“It was my goal to open with a good jump so that the others would have to try to catch me. 6.82 was okay, but I really thought that seven metres would be necessary for the gold medal, because it was a very strong competition.”


Asked about her feelings in the final round when both Olga Kucherenko of Russia and Latvian Ineta Radevica came close with their furthest jumps, which on the video screens looked as if they would have been further than 6.82m, she replied: “Every moment I thought that one of the others would jump seven metres and that I would have had to improve. It did not happen, no one jumped further, but it was close.”


In the history of the women’s Long Jump finals at the World Championships there were a couple of athletes who had won with three valid jumps and only one with two: That was Jackie Joyner-Kersee, who took the gold medal 20 years ago. On the men’s side however there once was a parallel to Reese: In 2005 Dwight Phillips won in Helsinki with only his initial attempt valid.


But there is another parallel to Joyner-Kersee: only Reese and Joyner-Kersee (1987 and 1991) have ever defended a world title in the women’s Long Jump. Fittingly when asked about a hero she looked up to she answered: “Oh yes there is one athlete: Jackie Joyner-Kersee.” Actually, she added, they are in contact regularly.


“We phone each other from time to time and she motivates me, telling me I am the best. Probably I will very soon receive a congratulation text message from her.”

Reese's first sport was basketball and only turned to athletics in 2003. It was a bit a coincidence that her talent for the Long Jump was discovered. The coach of her basketball team at school asked the girls to do Long Jump and he was promising a Coke for the best one. That Coke went to Reese.


It was then her mother, Carla Young, who convinced her that she should turn to athletics instead of basketball.


“I have to thank her that she did so. But you should of course always listen to your mother,” said Reese, whose family home in Gulfport at the Mexican Gulf was partially destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Her mother and siblings were evacuated in time so they escaped injury and Reese was away at the time, studying at the University of Mississippi. So she was not immediately affected, but could not get home for some time.


This spring she finished her exams in English. So she had more time to prepare for the World Championships than before. “This season however it did not make a difference.” But for the future it should help.


“My weakness is my landing. We are working on this since I started long jumping and it improves from year to year. But it can still be improved. I think every one has got some weakness and the Long Jump is not only run and jump – it is not that simple.”


Generally Reese, who is coached by Joe Walker and has a High Jump best of 1.88 m, is looking more for wins than for distance. Naturally the next big goal of the reigning World indoor champion will be the London Olympic Games in 2012.


“I have got three World Championship medals so now my goal is to win an Olympic gold.”


She had made her international break through in 2008, when she competed at the Olympics in Beijing, which were her first international championships. In China she had the best qualifying jump for the final with 6.87m. But in the final she could not quite match this and finished fifth with 6.76m.


“If you can win major events the distance will come with it,” said Reese, who had taken the US Championships this summer with a personal best of 7.19m. Generally she expects that there will be more seven metre jumps in the near future.


“We have got a number of very good athletes in the Long Jump. So it has picked up. Unfortunately we could not really show this today. But the seven metres will come again – maybe in Zurich and Brussels at the Diamond League Meetings.”


Jörg Wenig for the IAAF