Commonwealth bronze medallist explains how she has used her artistic talent to help improve her triple jump performance
The vibrant colours of Naomi Metzger’s AfroChicks are glorious – a contrast to the dark tones which cast a shadow over the start of her year. Bright and sassy, the art collection reflects the character of its creator who has chosen positivity and proactivity to boost future gains.
The 24-year-old has come a long way since January. She started 2022 feeling homesick in Italy, contemplating the enormity of a move back to the UK. She had lost her sponsor, felt financially insecure and was searching for a new training group in a bid to make her first major championship since 2019.
Over the summer she became a Commonwealth Games triple jump bronze medallist with a 14.37m PB, a European Championships finalist and represented Britain at the World Championships. She also enjoyed business success with her sell-out digital artwork.
“This year started off in a really weird place because I’d moved to Italy after last season, joined a group there, and then quite abruptly decided to come back home,” explains the Trafford AC athlete who returned to the UK in February. “Not being able to speak the language, I started to feel so isolated … I just wasn’t feeling as happy as I used to be. I rang [coach] Aston Moore and said: ‘Can I please join your group?’”
Metzger was previously coached by Tom Cullen who led her to European under-20 bronze in 2017 and a senior European Championships final in 2018. She loved the group, but was keen to train with more athletes her own age and with greater experience.
“Tom completely understood that,” she says. “We had a discussion and he kind of felt like it was the right time as well.
“I spoke to Christian Taylor – we share the same agent – and he was already working with Marco Airale [coach to Daryll Neita and Jimmy Vicaut, among others]. He said: ‘You should go to Marco’, so I thought I’d give it a go.”
Metzger returned to the UK after five months. However, Moore’s belief in her ability, together with an experienced and welcoming group of athletes, has helped her find happiness – and form – back on the track.
The creation of AfroChicks has also played a significant part in Metzger’s rejuvenation, giving her pleasure, purpose and greater financial stability.
“When I lost my sponsor I knew I needed to find a way to be able to survive,” she explains. “I’m on funding which I really appreciate, but it still wasn’t enough. I spent a bit of time researching NFTs [Non-Fungible Tokens], so now I sell my artwork online for cryptocurrency which I swap into pounds.
“I realised [with many NFT projects] that there weren’t a lot of black founders, so a lot of the pieces weren’t really representative in terms of the braids and hairstyles. I thought maybe I could do something like that, and that’s what’s captured people’s attention, especially in America where they’re really proactive when it comes to race. They’re like, ‘Oh, I’ve just bought one for my daughter, it’s her first NFT, she feels represented by you…’”
Metzger has had a lot to learn this year, but her efforts are already reaping rewards. Changes have been made on the track while, off it, the AfroChicks have created opportunities where previously there were challenges. Drawing on planes and at championships has provided a talking point with athletes she didn’t previously know; she has made new friendships and inspired communities; and she has generously donated some of her proceeds to the Lloyd Cowan Bursary and the Ron Pickering Memorial Fund.
“I started wearing the AfroChicks on my kit and some of the people who’d bought the AfroChicks or supported me, they came to Oregon [to the World Championships] to watch,” she says. “They didn’t know about triple jump before, but through my artwork they’ve started to connect and actually come down to watch competitions. Doing AfroChicks has also helped me to afford training camps. Taking that stress off – and just being happy – has resulted in better performances.”
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