Heike Drechsler at the 2000 Sydney Olympics
Germany’s Heike Drechsler is one of the most successful long jumpers ever. The two-time Olympic champion talks to Ato Boldon for the latest episode of IAAF Inside Athletics.
Few can lay claim to a medal cabinet as glittering as Heike Drechsler. So when Ato Boldon asks her to pick a career high, it is small wonder that she struggles.
“It’s difficult!” she says. Drechsler won two Olympic and two world championships gold medals in the long jump, and broke the world record on three occasions. World and Olympic medals also came in both the 100m and 200m, making Drechsler one of the most successful athletes of her generation.
She cites her first major medal as the one that gave her the mindset to go on a win a whole load more.
“The first one was ‘83, Helsinki. I was very young, just 18,” she recalls, glowing at the memory.
“I was really shy. There was a big athlete from Romania, a big long jumper, Anisoara Cusmir was her name. She jumped, before the world record [had been set], 7.40m – or something like that – and I gasped. 7.40m! I couldn’t believe it!
“We had a nice fight in the competition and I won. Yes! That was nice. But it was important that you don’t be afraid of big names, of big results. When you are in the competition then everybody is the same. I think this competition was important for the years after.”
Seventeen years on, Drechsler won her final major gold at the “crazy” Sydney Olympics. Key to her longevity, she says, was her love of competing and the support of her team.
“I had good coaches. I think it’s important to have a good team to [compete] for such a long time.
“The passion was there always. I enjoyed it, I loved my sports. Of course I love success too! I think it’s training, technique, it’s so many things to make you in good shape for a long time.”
In retirement, Drechsler continues to glow. Her passion for the sport remains strong – “I love long jump and sprinting still!” – and her memories fond. Even, it turns out, of her brutal training camps.
“You train together, you eat together, you compete together. Those relationships are nice; I [still] have good contact with all of them.”
Watch the full episode below: