St Lucian high jumper Levern Spencer (© Getty Images)
Levern Spencer has been among the world’s best high jumpers for most of the past decade. The St Lucian record-holder took time out of her busy training and competition schedule to answer our first impressions questions.
My first high jump coach was Gregory Lubin. He coached me from when I started high jumping at about the age of 14 in 1998/1999 until I left St Lucia to live and train in the US in 2004. He was a big influence on my career. He was a very good motivator and helped keep me calm during competitions.
First high jump competition
It came aged 14 during an inter-house competition at high school when I managed to break the St Lucian record with a jump of 1.69m. I’m not too sure what the St Lucian record was at the time, but I was pretty surprised to break the record. I had a talent for all sports and many different athletics events.
Track and field is very big in the Caribbean so athletics was the first sport I did in elementary school. I started life as a sprinter. I also played cricket, volleyball and netball for my church.
First international competition
It came at the 1999 Carifta Games in Martinique. It was a great feeling and a great thrill to make the team and it was so exciting to get on a plane and compete for my country.
Unfortunately, I don’t have the best memories of the competition. I twisted my ankle before the competition, but I still flew out to compete. I finished 10th with a best of 1.55m.
I would say it is my local manager Gregory Dixon. He played a lot of sports himself. He is really good at almost everything he does and tries to be the best that he can be in everything. I always look up to him in terms of how well he does things and how he always wants to do things perfectly.
First international medal
That came at the 2001 World Youth Championships in Debrecen, Hungary. My target before the event was to jump over 1.80m. I was sleeping, eating and dreaming of jumping over 1.80m, so I was thrilled to jump 1.81m and take bronze. I was so excited after the event – I don’t think I could sleep that night.
When I returned home to St Lucia, I had a motorcade from the airport to where I live in the north of the island. My church had a cricket match that day and all the players came to the airport to help celebrate. The performance in Hungary gave me a lot of motivation and confidence. It allowed me to be taken seriously on a world level for the first time.
First fashion disaster
I was very skinny when I was younger and I remember wearing a red dress. I had a photo taken with a neighbour who was quite big. I remember I looked so small and out of place by comparison. The picture made me look even smaller than I was.
Growing up in St Lucia, my cousins, neighbours and I used to play dolls and with dolls houses. The first toy I remember was a Barbie doll – a girly, girly type of doll.
First thing learned to cook
I love cooking and baking. I like to bake cookies and I remember learning from my sister from the age of about eight how to cook chocolate chip cookies. In St Lucia everyone learns how to cook, clean, wash and iron from a young age.
First movie that made you cry
I don’t cry too easily, but looking back it was probably Titanic. It was really touching and emotional just to see someone sacrificing their life for someone else.
It was a Honda LX. It was a blue-ish colour and I didn’t have it for too long, probably only for a couple of months before buying another car.
I took a blank CD and burned some gospel songs from my brother. I love gospel music. I listen to it regularly. I find it really encouraging, inspiring and motivational.
Steve Landells for the IAAF