Kazakhstan’s 2012 Olympic gold medallist and 2010 world indoor champion Olga Rypakova talks about the challenge of taking up a new event.
"I had enjoyed success as a combined-eventer, taking the world U20 heptathlon silver medal in 2002 and the 2006 Asian Games heptathlon gold medal. Yet I realised I did not have the power to compete at the very highest level in the combined events, so I decided to switch my focus to the jumps in order to have a greater chance of success.
"Under consultation with my coach and father, Sergey Alekseev, we decided to focus on long jump for the 2007 season then unexpectedly I was asked to help my team out at the national team championships in both the long jump and triple jump. I had not competed in triple jump since I was aged 10, but despite just two weeks of preparation in the event, I surprised myself to jump 14.05m.
"At that stage I saw the triple jump as very much a one-off. It was only after I was asked to compete in two events at the Asian Championships in Amman later that year that the triple jump emerged as a possibility again. I was a little reluctant at first because of the potential stress on the knees and my lack of experience, but I opted to compete. In only the second triple jump competition of my life, I won gold with a national record of 14.69m. That was the moment I changed my view and I accepted my future as a triple jumper. I knew I could compete with the very best in the world in my new-found event.
"I continued to be coached by my father and we both learned and studied the triple jump in detail in order to gain more knowledge. Thankfully, my background as a combined-eventer helped me adapt to the triple jump much easier.
"The biggest challenge I faced was the fear of injuring my back and knees. Yet after discovering my weaknesses and strengths for the triple jump, I gained confidence and found I loved this beautiful discipline.
"I jumped 14.32m for ninth at the 2007 World Championships in Osaka, and while I did not perform as well as I hoped, I earned some valuable experience competing at that level. With another year behind me and working hard on honing my technique, I won a silver medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games and really arrived as a top-class triple jumper.
"I love the feeling of flying in the triple jump and I am happy I made the right choice of event. I don’t know what standard I could have reached in combined events but, of course, I’ve enjoyed lots of success as a triple jumper highlighted by gold at the 2012 London Olympic Games."
Steve Landells for the IAAF