And she’s not quite sure how that makes her feel.
“I don’t feel like I’m the favorite. Long jump is a crazy event. On any given day anybody can go out there and win. You just have to be the best that day,” says Reese, the former Ole Miss star who still lives and trains in Oxford.
Ole Miss coach Joe Walker remains Reese’s personal coach.
In March, Reese set the American record with a jump of 7.23 meters, surpassing the mark Jackie Joyner-Kersee set 18 years earlier.
She followed that up with a 7.12-meter jump at the Mt. San Antonio College Relays in Walnut, Calif., last month.
She believes the winner in London “will have to produce a 7-meter jump,” so it would appear she’s on that path.
Reese, a native of Gulfport, is eager for a better showing on the world’s biggest stage. She was roughly three months removed from her final college season in 2008 when she produced the best jump during the qualifying round in Beijing. When the finals came she finished fifth at 6.76 meters.
“I had a good college career running and jumping. Then going out in Beijing, I gave it my all but had tired legs. I think it had a lot to do with my college career,” Reese said.
It also had something to do with the overwhelming feeling of being a rookie in the Olympics, she admits.
“I learned a lot from that meet,” Reese said. “I had too much fun. I learned to go in and be more focused, concentrate on winning and not concentrate on the whole Olympic experience.”
Prior to Beijing, Reese won NCAA outdoor championships in 2007 and 2008.
On a roll
Since Beijing, she won gold medals at the World Championships in Berlin in 2009 and Daegu in 2011 and won gold medals at the World Indoor Championships in Doha in 2010 and Istanbul this season.
Reese and Walker say they’re pleased with her conditioning and performance level heading into the June Olympic trials in Eugene, Ore.
They’re not out to mess with success, but they’re constantly looking for improvement as well.
“My main thing is my landing,” Reese said. “Everything is not in perfect form, but I want to focus on the good things that I do and work on the landing later.”
Reese said track and field observers have expressed opinions that she could add distance to her jumps by improving her landing.
“It’s always been a discussion that if I was to do this or that, I could go further. Coach Walker tells me if I’m beating everybody with my landing, they just need to hush. It’s a true statement, but it’s not like we’re not working on it. We are working on it, and it’s getting a whole lot better.”
Walker is not concerned with Reese’s landing.
“Right now, it’s a matter of doing everything a fraction better. That’s how you improve. This is not a machine where you dial something up. These are human beings. You try to strengthen some things and improve a weakness a little bit at a time. It’s a process.”
Reese, 25, estimates she will compete in “one or two” more Olympics in her career. She hopes the process leads to a championship in her second attempt.
“This year I’m going in more focused and more determined on getting the gold. I’m going to enjoy the experience, but I will also focus on what I’m really there for,” she said.