Jarrion Lawson in the long jump at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games (© Getty Images)
Emerging sprinter-jumper Jarrion Lawson of the USA is one of the rising stars of global athletics. Here the Olympic long jump bronze medallist talks about the significance of winning the 2014 NCAA indoor title.
“Without doubt, winning the 2014 NCAA Indoor Championships in Albuquerque was a key moment in my career. I improved my PB by 46 centimetres in just one competition and winning there also gave me the belief and confidence I could achieve anything I wanted to in the sport.
“Leading into that meet, I had enjoyed a good winters training at the University of Arkansas. In the few competitions leading up to the NCAA Championships, I had produced some long fouls, so I knew I had a big jump in me.
“I was ranked about fourth or fifth leading into that meet, so in many ways I had nothing to lose. The No.1 ranked athlete was my college teammate Raymond Higgs of The Bahamas, whom I trained with every day.
“I recall travelling down with the team and before the event the coaches predicted how many points we would score. I think they predicted me for third, so to go on and score 10 points (for first place) was very satisfying.
“The night before I competed, my coach Travis Geopfert said that even if I jumped from the back of the board, I could jump 8.20m (at the time Lawson’s PB was 7.93m), so I asked him if I could put my mark back so I wouldn’t foul. He said no, although in the final round I made the decision to put my mark back anyway, which was to prove a good decision.
“After four rounds I was down in about sixth with a best of 7.68m. In round five I leapt a PB of 8.01m to tie for the lead (with Corey Crawford), but at that stage I had an inferior second jump, so I had to produce a longer jump in the final round to win the competition.
“Because the adrenaline was pumping, I knew I would run a little faster on that final jump, so that is why I decided to put the marker back by about six inches. As soon as I hit the board and flew through the air, I knew it was a big jump.
“On landing, I was so excited and when I saw that I had jumped 8.39m (a world-leading indoor mark for 2014) it was like, woah, I didn’t know it was that big a jump! I had just improved my PR by 46 centimetres (in one competition) which is not something you expect to happen, especially indoors.
“I recall celebrating that night with an Italian meal with my uncle and parents who had travelled to watch me compete. And as for my coach, when I told him I had pushed the marker back, he just laughed.
“Winning that NCAA indoor crown definitely filled me with confidence; later that year I went on to take the silver medal at the outdoor US Championships. Victory in Albuquerque taught me to be believe in myself and how to be a winner in a pressure situation. It definitely taught me that anything is possible and that even in the final jump of a competition I can produce a PR.”
Steve Landells for the IAAF