On the biggest stage in track and field this year, former Ole Miss All-American Brittney Reese delivered the best jump of her life.
Reese won the long jump at the world championships on Sunday with a personal-best effort of 7.10 meters (23 feet, 3 1/2 inches) on her third attempt at the historic Olympic Stadium in Berlin. Her jump was seven inches better than that of the runner-up.
amp”The thought of winning the world championship hasn’t quite sunk in yet,amp” Reese, a 22-year-old native of Gulfport, told reporters. amp”For me to get it so young, I am very excited right now.amp”
Reese now owns the three best jumps in the world this year, all three of which have topped 23 feet.
And she has answered skeptics in the (mainly European) track and field press, who questioned whether the young Mississippi native – who spent 2005-06 at Gulf Coast Community College playing basketball and not competing in track at all – was up to the challenge.
“I had it in me, but the media was telling me I couldn’t do it in the finals,” Reese said. “So, I wanted to finally prove that I can do it.”
Sunday’s gold medal victory was the next big step in a dramatic progression for Reese, the 2007 NCAA indoor and outdoor champion at Ole Miss who won the 2008 Olympic Trials – the national championship for that year – and then successfully defended her national title this summer.
On the world stage, she was eighth at the 2007 worlds and fifth at the Beijing Olympics, At her age – she turns 23 on Sept. 9 – she could, barring injury, be a player on the world stage for perhaps the next decade.
But first, the world’s best female long jumper will have to catch up on her sleep.
amp”I have been losing sleep,amp” Reese said, as she prepared herself for the challenge of rising to the occasion in Berlin. amp”Hopefully, I can go back and get some sleep.amp”
Reese, 23, was jumping in a field that included the 2008 Olympic gold and silver medal winners. Tatyana Lebedeva of Russia, who finished second in Beijing last year, was also second on Sunday.
“I know everybody was banking on Lebedeva,” Reese said.
Reese’s message to her Twitter followers before Sunday’s jumps: amp”gotta do big things today.amp”
The 33-year-old Lebdeva, who was jumping 11th in the 12-woman field, led after the second round of jumps with her 6.97 (22-10 1/2). Reese took the lead for good when she jumped fifth in the third round.
Both Lebdeva and Reese jumped with a 1 mph tailwind.
Reese was cautious in her approach in Friday’s qualifying, taking on an estimated five inches in front of the board to avoid a foul. In Sunday’s big jump, which was quickly posted to YouTube, it appears she hits the board with a couple of inches to spare.
After landing, Reese popped up and gestured to the stadium crowd, never stopping to look back at her distance.
Reese said she adjusted her technique slightly for Sunday’s jumps after a review of her jumps at this summer’s national championships.
amp”I brought my last two steps back in and I popped the big one out,amp” Reese said. amp”I went back after the qualifying round and looked at some of my jumps from the national championships in Eugene, and it looked like I needed more speed.amp”
Reese is still coached by Ole Miss head coach Joe Walker. She turned pro before the 2008 Olympics.
The bronze medal on Sunday went to Karin Mey Melis of Turkey for her third-round 6.80 (22-3 3/4).
The Olympic gold medalist a year ago, Maurren Hoga Maggi of Brazil, finished seventh.
Reese had the only individual gold for the U.S. on the final day of the worlds, but a sweep of the 1,600-meter relays gave Team USA a meet-leading 10 golds and 22 total medals. Jamaica and Russia tied for second with 13 medals. Jamaica was second with seven golds.
John L. Pitts/NEMS Daily Journal