Series16 Oct 2017

My greatest challenge – Irving Saladino


Panamanian long jumper Irving Saladino at the IAAF World Championships (© AFP / Getty Images)

Panama’s 2007 world and 2008 Olympic long jump champion Irving Saladino faced difficulties in overcoming persistent no-jumps, which dogged him for the latter part of his career.

From big jumps to no-jumps

"For the early phase of my career, fouling was not an issue. I could control my approach and my accuracy on the board was fine. But after a problem with my patellar tendon in 2009 and 2010 which got progressively worse, my approach pattern was disrupted and it caused me to foul more regularly.

"I recall the 2011 World Championships in Daegu, I failed to qualify for the final (he jumped a best of 7.84m). I felt in good shape but the fear of fouling made me less aggressive on the runway. The problem recurred at the London 2012 Olympic Games as I no-marked in qualifying and failed to advance to the final.

"I experienced this problem for quite a while, mostly during my time when I was back training again in Panama from 2010 onwards. But, having previously been trained by Nelio Moura, I went back to Brazil in 2013 to prepare for my final competitive season in 2014.

"The high percentage of no jumps progressively started to undermine my confidence. I was afraid to go for big jumps because my goal was simply not to foul. My confidence was slowly eroded to the point where I almost quit. So, after spending three years in my native Panama, I returned to Brazil once more under the guidance of Nelio Moura in an effort to beat the problem

"He quickly tried to correct the problem by changing my approach. We worked on the rhythm and on visual control. Some exercises we used at that time are now part of other jumpers’ training routines. Some of them, who also used to foul regularly, have successfully overcome this problem.

"Nelio was also hugely supportive when it came to the mental side of jumping. I really wanted to jump well in my farewell season in 2014 and Nelio was instrumental in helping me overcome my problems.

"With the technical problems fixed and my anxiety reduced, I was ready in 2014 to jump freely once more. Without the fear of fouling, I managed to jump 8.16m and win the gold medal at the South American Games in Santiago (a title that up until that point was missing from Saladino’s collection).

"I wish I could have beaten the challenge earlier, but I was really satisfied to feel like myself once more before I retired later that year."

Steve Landells for the IAAF