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Jahisha finishes 10th in European Athletics Championships
The atmosphere in the Olympic stadium was electric … thunder and heavy rain darkened the evening sky. As the track and field action was about to start there was an announcement: “Could all spectators leave the seated areas.”
For everyone’s safety, proceedings had to be paused. With no cover over about two-thirds of the stadium we were told to head for shelter under the “roofs” (apparently the stadium’s still stunning undulating roof architecture is a reflection of the Alps).
The rain lashed and the thunder boomed and then the action started.
The noise was very much the same. The German crowd increased the decibel level for all their athletes in a yellow national vest. And this included their darling Malaika Mihambo who was favourite to take the long jump title.
I sat close to the pit - row 10 seat 3. As a non-accredited coach with Team GB I had to buy my own ticket (something else to worry about when going the DIY route).
It was in a great position. I will, however, say this was not my original seat and I must thanks fellow coach Matt Barton for swapping his with the one I had originally purchased at short-notice once I knew Jahsiha had been selected.
Matt had been on the ball months before - hoping one of his athletes Lucy Hadaway would make the team. Although she didn’t, Matt was still kept busy as he had Ray Banigo and Jacob Fincham-Dukes in the men’s final. (What happened to Jacob is real drama … more on that in another post.)
The action starts
Luckily I was able to make my way down to the edge of the track to talk to Jahisha before and during the competition (as I had done in the qualifying round).
She looked good in warm-up, probably better than in the qualifying. I had sent her some messages in the day between qualifying and the final to run in faster in the first rounds and not build across the rounds.
There would not be much room for manoeuvre when jumps close to 7m would be likely.
Ivana Vuletta, Khaddi Sagnia, Maryna Bekh-Romanchuk, Larissa Iapichino et al were not likely to mess around.
The first jumper to start the competition was Vuleta. To me the Serbian looked more relaxed. She flew down the run-up generating great speed, struck the board perfectly. There was a gasp and then applause.
The crowd probably didn’t expect such a distance in round 1. 7.06cm flashed up. The applause was slightly muffled. The German crowd was worried.
Jahisha was last to jump. Before her Mihambo. I hoped this would not be too distracting. The German’s first effort was in the 6.70’s - not enough.
Jahisha sped down the run-up. She hit the board well but the trajectory was too “up” - as opposed to “up and out”. The take-off angle needs to be a relatively shallow one. I spoke to her and told her this and that she needed to “drive up and away”. The direction of the take-off is very much determined by the penultimate step and the setting of the jump, potentially more work was needed on that.
In round 2 Jahisha came in harder and hit the board harder still, the result was similar. She over-rotated due to the similar take-off issues increased by her greater speed. Similar words of advice were offered.
Are you saying the right thing?
You hope that you are saying the right thing. It’s a careful reflection of saying something that will bring about positive change and not too much that leads to confusion, overload or negativity. In the heat of a competition you can’t go overboard on corrective details.
I will use gut instinct. As a former jumper I have a legacy of what a good jump feels like; how the run-up should flow … and sometimes you just don’t know when your athlete gets it wrong, and that is when you need to trust those instinctive feelings.
I wish I’d have been able to heed those a little more. In the qualifying round Jahisha had fouled her third round effort. I should have advised her to go back a shoe at the same point in the final.
She hurtled down the approach hit the board and sailed out to a jump in excess of 6.50m. This would have been enough to make the final. However, it wasn’t, as the jump was a foul.
The feeling of despair was overwhelming. It’s happened countless times before … but for some reason this foul hit me more than normal.
Of course it hit Jahsiha more. Perhaps it was the seriousness of the competition, perhaps it was the atmosphere … it’s not just the athletes who were running on adrenaline.
But that is sport.
Mihambo tried valiantly to pass Vuleta and nearly did with her best effort of 7.03m but it was not enough. She peppered the 7m mark on a couple of other occasions too. It seemed to me that she was not leaving the board as well as she normally does.
The German always looks unflustered but I very much doubt that she was.
The jumpers jumping reverse order makes for an exciting end. Jazmin Sawyers saved her best for last. 6.80m. She moved from 6th to 3rd!
Bek-Romanchuk took her last attempt. It was her best … it could have challenged for gold.
The Ukrainian screamed in anguish and dropped to her knees. She knew it was a foul.
Then it was Mihambo, the crowd were on their feet, the TV screens showed her and the announcer told the story. The German increased her speed, flowing into the take-off at great velocity. Up close you can see just how fast these women are.
She hit the board and it was a good jump. However, the crowd knew that it was not far enough.
It was Vuleta’s turn to drop to her knees and take in the fact that she had won the European title.
For Jahsiha and I the deflation will pass and the thought of being 10th in Europe will shine brighter. It’s is no bad achievement!
Again, I wish to thank all of you for helping make this journey to Munich possible. I guess you could say you contributed to our success.
To follow Jahisha on Instagram click HERE
Thanks to to Clive Thomas who is Jahisha’s US-based coach
The VLOG below needs a voiceover and some descriptions - you’ll see Jahisha’s first and second round jumps and Vuleta’s winning leap, plus Mihambo trying to take the lead on quite a few occasions. It’ll give you an idea of the event and mirrors my writing. In time I’ll edit it some more.
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