Long jumper talks about next weekend’s Müller British Athletics Championships, her goal to jump beyond seven metres and the ‘final three’ format
Jazmin Sawyers heads to the Müller British Athletics Championships in Manchester on June 25-27 in the form of her life, having jumped a personal best of 6.90m in Chula Vista, California on June 6.
The jump, helped by a 1.9m/sec tailwind, saw her move to equal fourth on the all-time UK long jump rankings and it’s given Sawyers even more belief going into the Olympic trials event in Manchester.
“I didn’t quite realise that it was quite that far. I knew it was a better jump than what I had before when I had two jumps over 6.60m alongside two fouls, one of which would’ve been enough. The jump felt good, it didn’t feel amazing but then somebody went over to look at the tape and I saw somebody shout ‘yes!’ and I was thinking I’d done it,” she tells AW.
“The official then shouted out 6.90m and I went nuts. Then I thought, I know where I am [in California] and was worried by the wind. Then I turn and look over, ask the guy what the wind is and he gives me this thumbs up and I had a bigger reaction to seeing that the wind was legal!
“A month prior I had jumped 6.82m at the same place and that was the Olympic standard but it was windy. So it was such a relief to finally know that I’ve got.”
— Jazmin Sawyers (@JazminSawyers) June 7, 2021
Shara Proctor, who faces Sawyers in Manchester alongside the likes of Abigail Irozuru and Lorraine Ugen, holds the British record in the women’s long jump with 7.07m, set in Beijing in 2015. Ugen has jumped 6.94m outdoors this year but Sawyers is focused on herself and not others.
“The competition in the UK is strong and has been for the last nine years and that doesn’t even factor in Kat [Katarina Johnson-Thompson]. She’s also jumped over 6.90m. We’ve got a really strong crop of women in the long jump and you should never underestimate anyone as they will bring their best when it comes to a championships,” she says.
“I don’t really think about them too much. I want to focus on myself. I’d love to make the team but if everyone else is better than me that’s the way it is. If I jumped 6.90m and I didn’t make the team I’d be disappointed but I wouldn’t be as gutted if I didn’t perform. When the occasion comes, I want to be the person to rise to it.”
Sawyers trains out in Florida and is coached by Lance Brauman, who oversees an impressive crop of athletes including men’s 400m Olympic champion and world record holder Wayde van Niekerk, women’s 400m Olympic champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo and men’s 200m world champion Noah Lyles.
“Making the team for everyone is expected, you don’t get a pat on the back from making a team. That’s made me raise my game as everyone is training to win an Olympic gold medal and that’s helped my mentality,” she says.
“When I joined the group my personal best and track record was nowhere near that level but when that mindset is around the group you’ve got to raise your game as I don’t want to be the one sitting on the sidelines.
“It’s being around people that have achieved things that you’re trying to achieve and seeing what it really takes. There’s no big secret. These people are just talented and are working hard and smart and then winning an Olympic gold medal doesn’t seem alien as this person who is doing a workout next to you has one. It gives me confidence as my coach, who has trained all these champions, sees something in me.”
The 27-year-old has won silver medals at the 2016 European Championships and 2014 Commonwealth Games but finished eighth in the long jump final at the 2016 Olympics. Her personal best of 6.90m would’ve seen her finish fifth in Rio de Janeiro but Sawyers now believes she can jump further than 7.00m and, if she gets on the plane, challenge for the final and possibly medals.
“What would I be happy with this year? If I managed to jump a personal best at the Olympics I don’t think I could ask for too much more than that. The first thing right now is to make the team and that’s at the forefront of my mind. You can’t take that for granted and assume you’ve done it until that goal is achieved,” Sawyers adds.
“If you can make an Olympic final then everyone is targeting a medal at that point and that’s the dream. As I’m edging towards that 7.00m mark I’m starting to think that may be possible. I’ve got what I’m capable of and it’s starting to appear on paper and I know what kind of athlete that I am and it’s one that will give their best at a championships or an Olympics.”
If Sawyers books herself a ticket on the plane then the potential competition is tough. Ese Brume has jumped a world lead of 7.17m while the US pair of Tara Davies and Tyra Gittens have jumped 7.14m and 7.00m respectively, with the 27-year-old describing jumping in 2021 as ‘wild’.
“It makes me think I can do it and it’s changed my perception to how far 7.00m is. When it’s this elusive number, you know it’s similar to Mondo [Duplantis] in the pole vault when he catapults over 6.10m, everyone thinks they should getting 6.00m. If I want to compete with these women I should be jumping over 7.00m and I do feel capable of it, as 6.90m didn’t feel perfect,” she says.
When Sawyers competes in Manchester this weekend it will be slightly different to what we’ve seen in the Diamond League this season as the controversial ‘final three’ format will not be present. Sawyers, safe to say, is not a fan of that format.
“I think it’s ridiculous. It’s insulting to only let three athletes only do the last jump and then to scrap everything that happened in the first five rounds. Athletes and fans have been saying they don’t like it and I will happily criticise it. Scrap the final three format, please,” Sawyers adds.
“The idea behind it was that it would make everything more exciting and it just isn’t. If you’re trying to get new fans into the sport, it’s so confusing to them that the longest throw or jump doesn’t win. Surely it’s much more exciting if somebody can come from the depths of hell and still win the competition? The format renders the rest of the competition pointless and it’s boring.
“I’m glad they’ve got the traditional set-up [in Manchester]. That’s what I’d expect. It’s how the sport has always worked and it’s just normal. To be having a normal competition shouldn’t be a treat.
“Athletics is simple. Whoever jumps or throws the furthest or highest wins.”