Lorraine Ugen in the long jump at the IAAF World Championships London 2017 (© Getty Images)
Britain’s 2016 world indoor bronze medallist Lorraine Ugen talks about the high of joining the exclusive seven-metre club and the pain of missing out on qualification for the 2012 Olympic Games by one centimetre.
Without a doubt a high moment for me was breaking the seven-metre barrier for the first time in my career at the British Championships in Birmingham in July.
I tore my hamstring during the indoor season, but this at least gave me a spell where I could rehab and build my strength, which left me fresher for the outdoor season.
I went to the Commonwealth Games in April and finished fourth. My rhythm, as you might expect, was a little off but there was no pain and I was not too disappointed with my performance.
During the European summer, I jumped 6.85m to win at the Stockholm Diamond League. I didn’t feel as if I over-exerted myself that day and the jump felt very natural.
By the time the British Championships arrived, I wasn’t expecting to jump seven metres that day. In the first round, I jumped a solid 6.60m but then during the second round when a number of athletes were jumping far and setting PBs, I thought, ‘okay, people are ready to jump today’.
In that second round, I knew I’d got a decent jump out but I didn’t know how far. I actually thought it was about 6.90m. It was a very different feeling to in Doha (in 2015 when Ugen set her then her PB of 6.92m) when it felt like I was the air forever. So, when it came up on the board as 7.05m, I couldn’t believe it. It was like a huge shock went through my body and I let out a high-pitched scream. I then threw my hands in the air and just ran.
To jump seven metres had been an aim of mine for many years. I recall as a youngster breaking the six-metre barrier for the first time, but to go over seven metres and achieve something so few other female athletes have done showcases to others that I am a world-class athlete.
The greatest disappointment came in 2012 when I missed out on qualifying for the London Olympics. Since making my junior international debut (at the 2010 IAAF World U20 Championships in Moncton) as an 18-year-old, I had targeted making the Olympic team in my home city.
In 2011 I had moved from the UK to start student life at Texas Christian University in the US. It was a big adjustment, particularly training-wise where my new coach, Nic Petersen, replaced quantity with more quality sessions.
Early in the 2012 season I jumped a windy 6.83m – which was eight centimetres above the London Olympic qualification standard – a performance which gave me the belief that I could make the team.
At the British Championships in June, I was determined to post the qualification mark and in the second round, I thought I had done so. I was poised to raise my arms in the air, only for the board to reveal I’d jumped 6.74m – just one centimetre short of the qualification mark.
I was disappointed but still excited to have come so close and set a personal best. I had to contain my emotions because I still had four jumps remaining. Unfortunately, I maybe started to push a little too much and I kept on fouling for the rest of the competition, so I couldn’t go beyond 6.74m.
I had one more opportunity to qualify at a British League match but it wasn’t to be. I remember I wrapped up my season after this competition and took an end-of-season break. It was very disappointing to miss out on the London Olympics and it took some time to get over. I think what made it even worse was the fact I had come so close to qualifying.
Steve Landells for the IAAF