Monday, 31 July 2017 08:27

LONG JUMP CHAMPION UGEN WANTS THE CROWDS ENERGY TO URGE HER TO THE LONDON WORLD CHAMPS

Written by Connor Craig-Jackson
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Free from the shackles of injury she bore at the 2016 Rio Olympics, British Long Jumper Lorraine Ugen’s World Championship campaign should prove to be no leap of faith.

A British Outdoor Championship gold, European Indoor Silver and a new 6.97 metres indoor personal best has seen the British Champion head to the World Championships seemingly in the shape of her life; a much needed boost after what was a somewhat bittersweet Rio Olympic campaign.

“I wouldn’t say the Olympics was as special as it should have been,” she admits, “because I feel like I wasn’t able to go there one hundred per cent prepared in the sense that I had an injury that season, so I think that set me back a little bit.

“But now I know that I’ve come through the other side and I was able to get a personal best jump indoors so I know that my body’s back to where it was before I injured myself so coming into outdoors I’m hoping to build on my personal best.”

Despite being a relative latecomer to competitive athletics, starting at Under 17s, the 25-year-old’s talent for athletics had been apparent long before then, even if it wasn’t through the long jump.

At only 12-years-old and with virtually no athletics experience, all it took was a school sports day and an opponent four years older than her to get some people talking about the would-be Olympian.

LorraineUgen

“I remember I actually did the high jump first,” says Lorraine, “I was in year seven but all the other years in the school were competing and by the end of it there was just me and one year eleven left.

“So I was just good for school level for some time and one year I almost made it to the English Schools even though I didn’t know what it was at the time, so my secondary school teacher was like ‘you should join a club you’d be really good’, so that’s how it all started off really.

“I actually don’t speak to that teacher anymore or remember what her name is, which is awful!”

Now in the present, all that has stayed the same is that Ugen is still in school, making arguably the biggest jump of her life in 2012 as she moved to Texas Christian University with coach Shawn Jackson taking her under his wing.

Despite the big move, Ugen has only gotten stronger; sitting firmly at the top of what she deems a “world class” British long jump contingent, including respective World and European medallists Shara Proctor and Jazmin Sawyers.

Competition at the British Championships therefore remains very strong, threatening to push each athlete to the limit.

“I think you’re more likely to do better jumps when there’s more competition,” says Lorraine, “so it’s definitely an advantage to have world class athletes around you so that you know you have to push yourself further in order to get where you need to go.”

In a discipline full of fine margins, this advantage could prove crucial as the Olympic finalist now prepares for a shot at the World Championships; a stage she has been at before, often with mixed results.

“My first world championships (in 2013) was slightly disappointing,” admits Ugen, “because I obviously didn’t compete very well. But I guess in a sense it fuelled me on to train harder and be more on point to make sure that I can get to finals and not just be there to make up numbers.

“So I think it helped my development in the sense that I’d proved I could make the team and now the goal was to get to finals, win medals and beyond.”

Now with three more years of experience in every major championship, this year’s world championships should contain no new surprised for the 2015 finalist.

However, a huge and rapturous home-crowd could prove to make 2017 a World Championships like no other, with Ugen’s first hand experience of her home-town London crowd giving her confidence that it can prove to be just that.

“I remember going to the Anniversary Games the year after the Olympics,” she recalls, “the crowd was just so loud because Jessica Ennis was competing in the Long Jump so as soon as she stepped out the crowd went absolutely crazy.

“Maybe in other events it isn’t as important but in the Long Jump especially we ask the crowd to give us the energy to help us to jump, so I always try and feed off the crowds energy to help me compete.”

Whether this proves to be a vital difference or not, the focus for Ugen remains purely on her own jumping as she makes the short journey to London in August.

“One thing I know is that I want to leave with a personal best,” says Ugen, “I know I’m going to have to do that to achieve what it takes to get on the podium. But I’m not necessarily targeting anything specific, I just know that I have to give it everything and that that is my main tactic at the championships.”






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