Jazmin SAWYERS of Great Britain in action during the Girls Heptathlon long jump - Day Four - WYC Lille 2011 (Getty Images) © Copyright
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Winter wonder Jazmin Sawyer still loves the Long Jump

Whatever happens at the IAAF World Junior Championships next week, 2012 has been a year to remember for the British long jumper Jazmin Sawyer.

Earlier this year the multi-talented teenager from Newcastle-under-Lyme in the English Midlands finished second in the two-man bobsleigh event at the 2012 Youth Winter Olympics in Innsbruck.

It was a stunning achievement for the young brakewoman, who turned just 18 in May and will still be an athletics junior next year, as British success in the sport on a global level has been rare and the last senior medal won at the Winter Olympics was back in 1998.

However, Sawyer is now aiming to upgrade the silver medal she won on the ice in January in for a golden one in the sand pit of Barcelona's Montjuic Olympic Stadium.

Jumping for joy

She leads the 2012 World junior rankings with her 6.64m effort she achieved at the UK Olympic Trials in Birmingham last month.

"This was the biggest stage of my athletics career so far, so to smash my personal best is amazing," said Sawyers recently, after adding 22 centimetres to her previous personal best.

"I even feel I can jump a little bit further, so hopefully, come Barcelona and with some hard work between now and then, I will get there."

Sawyer has decided to concentrate on the Long Jump this summer despite being a promising heptathlete and finishing ninth at the IAAF World Youth Championships last year, but she already knows what it is like to have a gold medal around her neck after having won her best individual discipline and being part of a victorious 4x100m relay at the 2011 Youth Commonwealth Games.

She has also been able to combine being a big success in two very different sports - after being recruited to bobsleigh in 2012 because of her obvious athletic talent which has resulted in a myriad of age-group medals in Britain since her early teens - because of complimentary aspects to both her training regimes.

"Because bobsleigh is about power and speed, and I favour events like the Long Jump in the Heptathlon, spending last winter doing bobsleigh didn't affect me too much," said Sawyers recently, who cites Britain's 2000 Olympic Games Heptathlon gold medallist and now TV personality Denise Lewis as her idol.

Bobsleigh on the back burner

However, despite her success in Innsbruck, the next Winter Olympics, which will be held in the Russian city of Sochi in two years’ time, don't figure in her immediate plans.

"I want to prioritise athletics for the foreseeable future and then go back to bobsleigh. I've got plenty of time, you see people in bobsleigh in their late 20s, she added, making one decisive choice although she has yet to say whether she will return to the Heptathlon in 2013 after not contesting one this year.

Bobsleigh's loss appears to be athletics' gain and, in Barcelona, Sawyer will be bidding to become Britain's first medallist in the World Junior Championships women's Long Jump since Fiona May took the gold and Jo Wise got the bronze 24 years ago in 1988.

Her major rival for the title looks to be the in-form Brazilian Jessica dos Reis who jumped a South American junior record of 6.58m recently; although Germany's Lena Malkus and Romania's Alina Rotaru - first and second respectively at last year's European Athletics Junior Championships - are both only one centimetre further back in the 2012 rankings and have also been jumping well in the last six weeks.

Everything points towards an enthralling competition and, if nothing else, Sawyer should be a big hit in Barcelona as she is studying Spanish and speaks it quite well.

"I can't wait!"

"No puedo esperar! Hoy me voy a Londres con todo el equipo de Gran Bretaña y llegamos en Barcelona mañana!!" she wrote on her Twitter feed on Friday, showing off her talent for languages. This translates as: "I can't wait! Today I go to London with the all the Great Britain team and we arrive in Barcelona tomorrow!"

You don't need any translation though, or the ability to read between the lines, to see that Sawyer is pretty excited about the fact that she will be going for gold in a stadium which has seen some fantastic feats of women's long jumping over the last three decades

Among those was the 1992 Olympic Games victory by Germany's Heike Drechsler with a distance 7.14m which, coincidently, was exactly the same distance as the still-standing World junior record set by Drechsler in Bratislava nine years earlier.

Phil Minshull for the IAAF