Series12 Sep 2016

First impressions – Brittney Reese


Brittney Reese in the long jump at the IAAF World Championships Beijing 2015 (© AFP / Getty Images)

Seven-time global champion Brittney Reese has been the most dominant long jumper of her generation. Here the US athlete talks about a few firsts of significance.

First track coach

It was my high school coach, Prince Jones. He was a great coach, a great disciplinarian. He was a great guy and a real father figure to all the girls he coached. He was not only a coach but also an athletics director and I really appreciate the role he played in my career for my first four years in the sport. I started out as a sprinter, but he was the guy who introduced me to the long jump.

First long jump competition

It was at high school and I remember I won with a jump of about 16ft (4.88m). I was aged 16 and sprinting at the time and I recall coach brought the basketball team out to find a long jumper. The motivation during that first ever long jump competition was that whoever jumped the farthest was bought a Coca-Cola. Once I had this goal in mind, nothing was going to stop me.

First sport

I played basketball from the age of about 10. I went on to play at community college and I probably could have played at a four-year college, too. I had dreams of competing in the WNBA and I played shooting guard, where I did a little bit of everything. In the end it was mum who said I had to decide between basketball and track. I was aged about 19 or 20 at the time, and it has proved the right decision. I look back on my time in basketball and think it was very helpful for my athletics. The motion of a basketball lay-up is similar to jumping because of the way the knee drives forward,

First overseas competition

It was the 2007 IAAF World Championships in Osaka. I remember I was so scared and nervous beforehand, I am not going to lie. It was my first time overseas and I remember I finished eighth. I was terrified, I didn’t know anybody. Looking back, it was a blessing to be given the chance to travel overseas and to compete on the international stage.

First international medal

That came when I struck gold at the 2009 IAAF World Championships in Berlin. The previous year I had finished fifth at the Beijing Olympics and I said after that performance there is no way I’m not going to win a medal at that next World Championships. That was my dream, so I was so happy to accomplish that feat. It was one of my best ever performances (Reese won with 7.10m, a PB at the time).

First interview

That was when I was at Ole Miss (the University of Mississippi) around the time of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. I was interviewed and filmed in part for the school and for a TV station. I remember it being a big deal at the time.

First sporting hero

Jackie Joyner-Kersee (three-time Olympic champion) for her passion and drive to compete. She would always do whatever it took to win. I looked up to her because she had this huge will to win and I pride myself on having that same kind of motivation. I too do whatever it takes to win and work that extra bit hard.

First piece of clothing ever bought

It has to be shoes. I’m big on shoes and it was probably a pair of Air Force 1 shoes. Back in the day I was a big Air Force 1 fan. At the time everyone was wearing them. I bought all the trends of the day. I am a shoe fanatic. I just love shoes.

First toy

A Rebecca Lobo Barbie Doll. It had a little magnet on the hand and if you pressed it, she shot a basket. I remember being on my grandmother’s front porch aged eight or nine playing that.

First thing learned to cook

It had to be spaghetti. I like pasta and I would have been aged about 12.

First car

My first ever car was a hand-me-down 1997 Oldsmobile Bravada given to me by my sister. The first car I ever paid for was a Cadillac CTS. I bought it in 2011 after my World Championship win in Daegu. It was a really good car, but it was a write-off with the damage sustained in a hurricane.

First pet

I had a dog named Princess. She was a cocker spaniel mix. She was a great dog; very protective and she barked a lot.

Steve Landells for the IAAF