Brittney Reese of the United States celebrates winning the gold medal in the women's Long Jump final at the 12th IAAF World Championships in Athletics (© Getty Images)
Reese won one of five medals for Team USA – three of which were gold – on the ninth and last day of competition in the Olympic stadium alone. She contributed to the Americans’ overall tally of 10 gold, 6 silver and 6 bronze medals which topped the medal standing by nations.
“It sounds good,” Reese said at the thought of her being the World champion. “And for me to get it so young, I am just so excited.”
Despite her young age, Reese was a finalist two years ago at the Osaka World Championships and at the Beijing Olympic Games last summer.
Reese is actually the third youngest champion in the history of the event following on inaugural champion and German national legend Heike Drechsler (who competed under her maiden name Daute in Helsinki 1983) who won her first title aged 18 and compatriot Tianna Madison who was a surprise winner four years ago when aged 20.
Her effort today was the longest winning mark since Drechsler’s second World title in Stuttgart 1993.
“Today I felt a lot better than in the qualifying round. I went back and looked at some of my jumps from Eugene, Oregon (where she took the US title) and saw that I needed more speed. So I got to work on speed,” she explains of her preparation following her automatic qualifying jump at 6.78 two days ago.
“I have been losing sleep,” she commented on her title. “This is the way I wanted it to be. People were saying I couldn’t come through to the final but I knew I had it in me.”
Reese took the lead with her very first attempt at 6.92, a mark which was challenged by defending World champion Tatyana Lebedeva only. The 33-year-old former Olympic and three-time World champion Russian actually surpassed that mark with her second round 6.97 which prompted Reese to respond with her eventual winner with her very next try.
“For her to take the lead, it was a big motivation to put my biggest jump together. It’s great that we can compete at this level in the long jump.
“I knew Tatyana could easily go 7 metres with any of her remaining jumps so it did put a little pressure on me. I kept my focus and in the end she did not jump 7 metres.
“Actually before coming to Berlin I have been thinking ‘I’ve got to go 7.10 at the World champs.’ Since I jumped 7.09 with a little bit of wind at nationals I said I wanted to go here and jump 7.10 with no wind.”
And that is exactly what Reese delivered.
“I was surprised. I didn’t think I was going to get it now, I thought I would get it in 2 years. But to be the World champion so young it just shows how much I’ve improved and how much I can get better.”
Reese was an outstanding jumper at Gulfport High School in Mississippi, where she earned the 2004 “Player of the Year” award for track and field. She then played basketball and didn’t participate in track and field at Gulf Coast Community College. She returned to the track after transferring to the University of Mississippi, where she competed in the long jump, high jump and triple jump.
Asked about what has made the difference since her fifth place at the Beijing Olympic Games, Reese does not hesitate.
“Last year in Beijing, I was still competing in the collegiate system. I had just finished the College season so it meant I had to go to a lot of meets. This year I didn’t have to. So I could relax, stay calm and come here and do what I had to do.
“It’s so much easier without the College meets; it takes so much pressure on your legs to compete so often. This year I had less jumps in me. I was fresher,” she concluded.
Laura Arcoleo for the IAAF