This is a masterful piece, as Jazmin Sawyers allows the reader to get into her head as she competes in Istanbul 2023 in the long jump. In Istanbul, Jazmin Sawyers upset the proverbial apple cart to take gold with a superb 7-meter indoor jump against two of the finest long jumpers in the sport!
Stuart Weir has already written about Jazmin Sawyers’ 7m leap to win the European Indoor long jump gold. https://www.runblogrun.com/2023/03/2023-european-athletics-indoor-champs-a-stellar-womens-long-jump.html
Now Jazmin tells RunblogRun how the competition unfolded from her perspective.
“So my approach for the final was simple. Because it was only eight athletes and no cut, I knew that I didn’t need to get a safe jump in. So I was taking risks from the get-go. The opening 6.70m, while it was solid, was not a great jump. I just didn’t finish my landing; it was an incomplete jump. But I still landed at 6.70, so I was actually happy with the way that my body was moving, and I knew that there was a lot more in the tank.”
She followed the 6.70m with two fouls.
“In rounds 2 and 3, I just really went for it, resulting in tiny, tiny fouls. But you know, a foul is a foul. They were kind of consistently in the same spot, and I was just going for it. I was trying to correct what I got wrong in round one in terms of the landing, which I did. But I just wasn’t quite hitting the board. After round two, Aston [Aston Moore, her coach] moved me back. He said. ‘OK, I see what you’re doing. It’s good. I like it. Do the same thing, but I’m going to move you back a little. He moved me back, and I hit basically the same mark again. And he said, ‘OK, well, this is your problem now. I’m not going to move you back again. Find the board because I wanna see if it’s because you’re running faster or if it’s because you’re adjusting. Or are you getting it wrong?’
After the fouls, Aston told me to check the screen, so I checked the screen, and I went, ‘OK, it was a foul, but I think because I was checking the screen, an official came over to see if I wanted to question it, but I didn’t. I just wanted to check and make sure where I was in relation to the board, but I wasn’t questioning it. It was clearly a foul. It was small, but it was clearly a foul.”
Round four was an improvement, 6.76m, but it still dropped her back to fourth place behind Malaika Mihambo and Ivana Vuleta, two of the greatest-ever women’s long jumpers.
“So, round four, I did find the board, but I did that by slowing down into the take-off. 6.76m.”
So she went into round five, out of the medals and behind two legends.
“At that moment, I saw that the gold medal position was at 6.83m, and I knew full well that I was capable of jumping beyond that. So in my head at the time, it wasn’t thinking, ‘oh, you need a 7-meter jump to win. My thoughts were: ‘You’re still in this. You’re more than capable of jumping past 6.83m and taking the lead. And my mindset, lately, I’ve been trying to work on with my sports psych, not just being content with getting in the medals but always aiming to win. That might sound like an obvious thing, but I think that after spending so many years not making podiums at all, the podium being a goal seemed a very reasonable thing.
But now, my mindset has shifted, and the podium is not the goal anymore. The goal is to win. And so when I’m standing on the runway, I think: ‘This is it. Fight for the gold, and the gold at that moment was 6.83m, and that was so within my capability. And I thought at the time that rounds two and three were sort of in the high 80s to low 90s range. I knew they were good, but I didn’t think they were as good as they actually were. From where I was landing, I couldn’t see. I didn’t look at the screen. I didn’t know where they landed, which I’m actually glad that I didn’t know because it kind of made that moment when I did jump 7m even more special.“
I wondered if the top three, including Mihambo and Vuleta, made it more difficult.
“It’s not like that for some reason. I think it might be because Malaika and I have been competing together for so long – since we were juniors, and I’ve beaten her. I suppose I’m lucky, but I have been through the ranks with her and see her not as this unbeatable athlete. She is an exceptional athlete, but I don’t see her as superhuman or as being in a different category from me. She’s just a very good athlete and someone you need to be aware of. It’s not that I don’t acknowledge it. For example, when round six came around, I wasn’t thinking. ‘This is mine. I won because I know what kind of an athlete she is, but I also know that she’s beatable. And I think I’ve proven to myself over the years that I can compete with anyone.
I don’t see it like that with anybody. I used to, I definitely used to come into a competition and think, ‘Oh well, this person’s won this’, but it doesn’t feel like that anymore. I’ve beaten, I think, every one of the top jumpers, and if I haven’t, in my head. I think I have! So I don’t come into any competition thinking ‘you’ve got me’. It is a matter of here we are on the day. I know you’re beatable, and I know I’m good enough.
Another thing about the elite jumpers group that might also help explain – and I don’t know if this is a good thing for everybody or not – is that we’re all very friendly. We all get along, and so it feels like I am competing; I’m coming up against someone like me. Mihambo, whom I respect greatly, is somebody that I get along with and have shared many competitions with over the years, and that’s the same feeling for most of the athletes if we do get along. So they all seem more human.
When Malaika hugged me in the middle of the competition, I think it’s part of that sort of friendship that we have, that she knows how much 7m means to me. She knows how long I’ve been going for that, and even though that put me in a position where I was ahead of her, she was able to put that aside and say, ‘look, I’m happy for you as a person. Well done.”
In round five, Jazmin jumped 7.00m
“It was a sort of moment of a lifetime; I don’t think I’ll ever forget how that felt. Because I knew how close the fouls in rounds 2 and 3 were, and round 5 felt similar but didn’t even feel quite as good a jump as rounds two and three. So afterward, I’m waiting, I’m staring, waiting initially for the light to go green. I’m thinking, ‘come on. Come on, please. Like, let me have one, please. It goes green, and you can see I’ve seen the footage. And I go: ‘yes, it’s green. It’s like, yes, OK that that’s one hurdle overcome, and now it’s the wait, the wait, the wait for the distance, and it was such a weird moment because I thought it was far enough to take the lead, but only just. So when I’m staring at the scoreboard. I’m looking for those last two numbers to see if it says 85 or 86 – has it taken the lead? I’m not focused on the 6m bit, and 7m has entered my mind. It hasn’t even crossed my mind that this could be a 7-meter jump. I’m just staring at the two numbers going. How far is it gonna be? Have I taken the lead? And so when it popped up, there was a split second where I saw. 00 that I went, huh? There’s no 80+. There’s no 90+. It was a split second. But when the realization clicked it was just. Ah, such a moment!”
In round six, she had the last jump and knew she has won. It was only 6.84m
“Only 6.84m! But honestly, I was really happy with that jump because 6.84m at any time is a good jump. It would have been a big indoor personal best if it hadn’t been for the 7M in the previous round. But also, I had that space on the board. I had 15.9 cm of space on the board, so it was almost an identical jump to the one before – take-off to landing. That is very encouraging, though, and even after all that emotion and there was emotion, and without the added pressure, I still had a big jump in my body. It’s really good to the bank and knows that going forwards, I was still on it even after all that. It wasn’t run through it. It wasn’t a foul; my legs didn’t give way. I could still deliver something good.”