Brazilian athletics has always produced good jumpers, but the tradition was only been in the horizontal disciplines. Very well known are the names of champions such as Adhemar Ferreira da Silva (Triple), Nélson Prudêncio (Triple), João Carlos de Oliveira (Triple and Long) and the more recent Jadel Gregório (Triple).
José Telles da Conceição has been the only Brazilian to obtain a global honour at the High Jump with his bronze at the 1952 Olympic Games, and since then only Jessé Farias de Lima has been able to elevate himself closer to those important international heights.
After reaching the Olympic final in Beijing and finishing tenth in his best result in an important event, de Lima ended the 2008 season among the world’s best, closing the year with national records of 2.31 and 2.32m. The latter performance has placed him eleventh in the world lists.
Jessé Farias de Lima was born in Recife, state of Pernambuco, on 16 February 1981.
“My physical education teacher, Célio Roberto encouraged me to practice the sport. Then I realize that I could follow the steps of my brother Jonas, who obtained an athletics’ scholarship, so I put all my efforts in doing the same. After competing once in the hurdles and falling in one race, Célio Roberto said to me “you will do that event”, pointing to the High Jump area.”
“I picked it (High Jumping) up by watching, and jumped 1.36m… The next week I went to train with Rômulo Duarte, nicknamed “Biro-Biro”, who taught me to jump Fosbury-Flop-style. Then I improved to 1.59m, and was able to obtain a scholarship at the high school were Biro-Biro coached,” remembers de Lima.
“Along with my coaches, my father has always been a key support for me, even when I didn’t have enough money to continue training, because at some stages of my career I was very close to giving it all to get a job…. Besides my father, my coach from 1996 to 2000, Fernando Brito, was very influential. Brito helped me to obtain great results in those years, which made a huge change in my life,” adds de Lima.
Solid junior years
“My growth as an athlete went pretty smoothly at the beginning. The best result I remember from those years was the victory at the 1999 Pan-American Junior Championships in Tampa, Florida, with 2.21, then a personal best. By the end of that year I ended up improving that performance to 2.23, mark that is still a Brazilian junior record.”
“In 2000, I attended my first World Championships, the Junior’s in Santiago, Chile. That year marked an improvement in my general condition, but I suffered problems in the knee tendon of my take-off leg that didn’t let me train normally for 2 months. Despite that, I was able to reach the final and place fourth. Yet, I must admit that I wasn’t very happy with the result.”
“The transition to the senior years didn’t go as planned. I moved to São Paulo, and despite being second in the Brazilian lists of 2000, I struggled to find a club and a competent coach. Brito didn’t want me to train with anyone, so, since I couldn’t find a good coach I ended up training alone in all 2001, counting on videotaping myself to observe my mistakes. With all those difficulties, I improved to 2.25 and topped the national lists.”
“By 2002 I set my first Brazilian record with 2.27. Yet, I felt I didn’t have a great coach while having picked up one. The good thing is that I finally had a club by then. In 2003 I repeated the 2.27 mark, but suffered an ankle injury at the Pan-American Games, where I placed sixth.”
“By September of 2003, I had the chance to go to Portugal to train under the guidance of Russian coach Robert Zotko for 4 months. Things were going very well but sadly he passed away, and I had to head back to Brazil in February of 2004. Still, by jumping 2.27 twice, I guaranteed my participation at the Athens Olympic Games, and placed seventeenth in the qualification round, which wasn’t bad for my first major competition as a senior.”
“After that whole string of bad luck I finally had a break, and at the end of 2004 I met my actual coach, Kiyoshi Takahashi, who proved to be crucial for my later development. Takashi is a very dedicated and resourceful coach. We had common goals and that has been extremely important for my development as an athlete.”
“But only when you think it’s all going to work out perfectly, in March of 2005 I suffered a herniated disc which caused me to miss the rest of the season. I came back to training in September, fully recovered.”
Major improvement in 2006
If there has been an important year in de Lima’s career that was 2006. After the setbacks and injuries, the season brought a South American title – the second of his career after one in 2001 – the first place at the “Campeonato Iberoamericano”, and participation at the IAAF World Cup in Athens.
De Lima also improved the Brazilian record to 2.30 (7 May in Porto Alegre) to become the third South American athlete to reach that plateau behind the record holder, Colombian Gilmar Mayo (2.33 in 1994), and Peruvian Hugo Muñoz (2.30 in 1995).
“The season didn’t start that well. I pulled a muscle in February of 2006, which made me loose one month of training. But I jumped 2.28 on 22 April (a NR) and 2.30 a few weeks later. That season I had four jumps over 2.28, which was a great reassurance.”
“2007 ended with an appearance at the final of the Osaka World Championships, but the year was far more complicated. My preparation went very well, but a series of minor problems tampered the season. Among the injuries was another problem with a hernia, but not as bad as the one from 2005. Yet, I lost several weeks of training.”
A fourth place of the home Pan-American Games in Rio with 2.24 was seen as a setback, but at season’s best of 2.29 in Osaka meant the qualification for the final of de Lima’s first senior World Championships. “The fact of having missed so many weeks of training on that year meant I couldn’t recover well enough for the final, where I placed thirteenth with 2.21,” adds de Lima.
“An Olympic year is a very important one, and mine didn’t begin very well. A pulled muscle conspired against my indoor season, where I was only able to jump 2.20 (Weinheim, 27 February). After that, my goal was to ratify my Olympic standard in the first part of the season, which I did at the Sesi meeting in Uberlândia, on 11 May with another 2.30 performance. There I had a very close attempt at 2.34 as well”.
“With that achieved, I started to focus on the Olympic Games and the Troféu Brasil (National Championships). I won the Troféu with a competition record of 2.28, and everything seemed to be going very well on the way to jump higher than 2.30”.
“To reach the Olympic final wasn’t just my ultimate goal. I knew I was ready to do very well, perhaps something near to 2.35, which would have enabled me to even fight for the podium. But my technique wasn’t as consistent as we wanted it to be. Looking back, I might have needed a few quality competitions in Europe in July, but we were unable to obtain funds for the trip.”
“I knew I was ready for something big in Beijing, and while many people thought it was great to be in the final, I wasn’t so satisfied with my 2.20 performance or with my tenth place. I also think that if I had my coach with me in Beijing, things could have gone better. Other coaches were there, but mine wasn’t, and that was a disadvantage for me”.
“The proof of how ready I was for that final were the two competitions I had after the Olympic Games, were I jumped 2.31 (Padova, 31 August) and 2.32 (Lausanne, 2 September) to elevate the national record twice”.
Great conditions guarantee a great future
“In the past ten years, in South America and Brazil, we lost too many talented jumpers due to the lack of financial support. Another factor that conditioned the growth of my event was the lack of good coaches in great amounts; that’s perhaps the reason of why the 2.33 record has lasted over 14 years”.
“Now, in Brazil, we have several programs of support through the Brazilian Confederation. What they do with the aid of the national bank “Caixa Econômica Federal” has made a great difference. My club, “Rede Atletismo”, is doing its part as well, so with all those elements we feel we now have a complete project for the future”.
“I haven’t shared much time with Gilmar Mayo due to the difference of our ages, but I feel his record will fall soon. He was a great talent, who still competes at his 39 years of age, even jumping over 2.20”.
Goals for 2009
“One of priorities for next season is to be able to jump 2.34. The others are simple: win the Troféu Brasil, the South American Championships and perform well at the IAAF World Championships in Berlin. I need to compete in Europe before Berlin, and then I want to jump my best in Germany.”
“To be among the best of the world I need to keep working on improving my technique, because the physical aspects of my preparation are superb in terms of strength and speed.”
“I need to focus on my technique, and that will give me consistency. With those two tools I know I can be among the best jumpers in the world.”
Eduardo Biscayart for the IAAF
Jessé Farias de Lima
Recife, Pernambuco, 16 February 1981; 1.86m, 85Kg
Club: Rede Atletismo
Coach: Kiyoshi Takahashi
Honours at HJ: OG: 2004- 17q; 2008- 10=; WCh: 2007- 13; WCp: 2006- 6; PAmG: 2003- 6; 2007- 4; South American Champion 2001, 2006, 2007; Won Campeonato Iberoamericano 2006, 2008; Pan-American Junior Champion 1999, South American Junior Champion 1999, 2000. Ten times Brazilian record (2003-2008).
Progression at HJ: 1998- 2.06; 1999- 2.23; 2000- 2.18; 2001-2.25; 2002- 2.27; 2003- 2.27; 2004- 2.27; 2005- 2.15; 2006- 2.30; 2007- 2.29; 2008- 2.32. Indoor PB: 2.25 (’04).