Brittney Reese ahead of the IAAF World Indoor Championships Birmingham 2018 (© Bob Ramsak)
With a remarkable seven world titles and an Olympic gold medal to her name, it is refreshing to hear that it is in fact inspiring the youth of today --rather than adding to her fame, fortune and athletic resume-- which inspires long jump star Brittney Reese in the latter stage of her career.
The 31-year-old US athlete regularly organises community youth projects in her home town of Gulfport, Mississippi, and has coached junior college athletes in San Diego, where she is based.
“My inspiration is certainly the youth,” she said. “Athletes are role models and I feel the kids are the future so we have to get to them first.
“I was raised by my grandparents and we have the old mentality that we have to give back and never forget where you came from - that’s always stuck with me since growing up so that’s why I’ll always work with the youth.
“A lifetime dream of mine is to be a coach so I will absolutely go back into it, I love being able to give back to the community.”
A recent example: Reese recently hired out an entire movie theatre for 78 underprivileged children from her home town to watch the film ‘Black Panther’.
Reese has a 10-year-old son who of course, particularly admires her achievements.
“My son’s a real athletic kid - he wants to be a shot putter and he’s into baseball and football right now. I have all of my medals in a stand in my living room so he can see them but I need to make him understand that sometimes it’s ok to lose,” she said, then added with a wry smile, “He doesn’t get to see me lose that much.”
“I just want to make sure I inspire him to do great things in life in general and he inspires me also.”
Unleashing her ‘inner beast’
Having captured the 2010, 2012 and 2016 world indoor titles, Reese is certainly no stranger to success in the global arena but she enters the Birmingham competition third on the world list with a relatively modest 6.88m set at altitude while taking the US title in Albuquerque earlier this month.
The 2012 Olympic champion and 2016 Olympic silver medallist is confident however of raising her game when it matters.
“Right now, I’m real confident in what I’m doing - I know it will be tough but I want to make history and if I get the national record, that will be fantastic,” she said.
“I’m a competitor, I don’t like to lose so I’m here to win. I train with guys such as (2012 world indoor triple jump champion) Will Claye and I always look to beat them also - it’s just the inner beast in me.”
Known for often clinching championship victory with her final jump of the six-round competitions, Reese continued:
“Mentally I’m strong and my 6.88m was my first time going off a full approach. In my first two meets, I had fouls which were close and they were 7.26m and 7.11m so I know I’m where I need to be.
“I’ve watched the long jump closely this season so I can tell the event is going to be strong but I’m not worried about anybody else - I know what I need to do and the mark I want to hit - and that mark will win.
“I can only focus on myself but I like how the event’s getting stronger - I think we’ll have some surprises.”
Remaining humble and cool
The world outdoor championship winner in 2009, 2011, 2013 and 2017, Reese finished the past three seasons as world number one and she harbours hopes of surpassing her own 7.23m national record here to continue that dominance.
Fourth on the global all-time indoor list - and ninth outdoors with a 7.31m lifetime best from 2016 - Reese prides herself on maintaining a modest demeanour despite her successes.
“My grandma taught me to be humble and I always kept that in my mindset. I’m always cool but I’m just being me - I don’t feel the need to brag, boast or ask for attention because I know what I’ve done for myself,” she said.
“I know it’s my destiny to be here so I’m living out my destiny.”
With no international championship for US athletes to contest this summer, Reese has already decided that a lighter campaign is in order.
“After one or two IAAF Diamond League meetings and the US Championships, I’m thinking ‘shut it down’ because if I want to continue on this path of winning medals, I have to take care of my body and my mindset,” she said.
“I want to come back to the IAAF World Championships in 2019 (in Doha) and be mentally and physically strong and for that, I need to rest my body.”
And following a golden-rich past eight years, Reese could be forgiven for wanting a short break at last.
Nicola Sutton for the IAAF