High jumper Mirela Demireva enjoyed a stellar 2016 campaign by earning silver medals at both the Rio Olympic Games and European Championships in Amsterdam. Here the 27-year-old Bulgarian reflects on a July night in Belgium last year when she first attempted the two-metre barrier.
“Since I first started high jumping 13 years ago, I had dreamt about one day jumping two metres. Yet it took until the moment I started training with (coach) Rini van Leeuwen in 2014 to realise I could become the high jumper I always wanted to be.
“Leading into the 2016 season, everything had gone so well for me. I had waited for this moment for such a long time. There were no excuses. I felt ready for the Rio Olympics and delivering my dreams of winning a medal.
“I also knew I had to be prepared to jump two metres at the Olympics and I didn’t want the experience to be something new for me in Rio.
“In July, I won a silver medal at the European Championships in Amsterdam, which was my first medal at a major championship for eight years (since winning silver at the 2008 World U20 Championships) and I knew that in my next competition in Heusden, Belgium, which was my last scheduled competition before Rio (note: Demireva later competed at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in London before the 2016 Rio Olympic Games), I wanted to try two metres for the first time.
“I was excited after winning a medal in Amsterdam and I was in a good mood. I also knew I was on track towards accomplishing one of my dreams of winning an Olympic medal in Rio but I wanted to gain more confidence. I cleared 1.91m that night (in Heusden). I was the last competitor in the competition, so I chose 2.00m for the next height because I wanted to have some fun. This was the first time in my life that I had attempted 2.00m. The first two attempts were good but the third one was the closest attempt as I just dislodged the bar with my heels.
“That third attempt gave me an amazing feeling. My coach’s tip was that to achieve 2.00m, I needed to stay longer in that air. At that moment, attempting 2.00m I was flying freely. The jumps seemed like I was in slow motion. It was easy and light.
“The important thing for me is I can now ‘feel it’. I recognise this feeling and I can search and chase for it. I have a lot of things to gain from a technical point of view (for attempting this height) and I know I need to be technically perfect to jump a height like that.”
The month after her first attempt at 2.00m, Demireva took the Olympic silver medal by equalling her PB of 1.97m at the Rio Games.
Steve Landells for the IAAF