HAVING affirmed her Olympic debut in the women’s long jump, multisport athlete Tyra Gittens still has a chance of securing Tokyo qualification in her pet event, the heptathlon.
Gittens’ dominant performances on the American outdoor circuit – particularly at the South Eastern Conference and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Championships – saw her obliterate the competitive field but still fall agonisingly short of punching an Olympic ticket in the hep.
At the former, the 22-year old-won gold in the hep but fell just two points short of the 6,420 points Olympic standard. There, she also punched her Olympic ticket by leaping 6.96 metres in the long jump, surpassing the 6.82m qualifying standard. She also powered to gold at the NCAA, this time totalling 6,285 points.
Gittens is currently ranked third in the world in the heptathlon but can still squeeze into Tokyo based on the performances of other athletes over the seven days.
“Even though I’m number three in the world right now, there’s a points system that is used in relation to the types of meets that you did. When you do a lot of bigger meets, like the Diamond League, you get points towards this.
“I haven’t done a lot of big meets because I’m in college. Those meets I do in college don’t score as much as the big international meets that professional athletes compete in. Twenty-four athletes will compete in the hep at the Olympics and I’m ranked at number 23 right now,” she said.
Qualification for all Olympic track and field meets concludes on June 29. However, the Texas A&M "multi" is relying on the fact that most countries will be using this week and the coming weekend to take on their respective national trials and not participate in major international competitions.
“I’m not super nervous but at the same time, anything can happen. It’s looking good right now. A lot of people are doing their trials this week and next week. It would be very sad if I did not qualify.
“I’m still positively thinking and hoping that I can do it. And if not, I still get to do something awesome in long jump,” she said.
Over the next four weeks, the junior athlete will continue working alongside her college coach Sean Brady. The American instructor has been working with Gittens for a couple of years and according to her, he has the winning formula.
During her recent performances, she said there were certain aspects of her efforts which needed some fine-tuning. Gittens believes one month is still enough time to recover, train and sharpen up on her craft.
She credited Brady for his commitment and drive towards helping her reach her fullest potential.
“I can’t wait to get things (performances) cleaned up because during the season there were so many things that weren’t clicking yet. My coach always told me, during the season, that if it’s not clicking now it will click when it really matters,” she said.
Gittens added that her coach will join her on the Tokyo journey to ensure she is in the best shape ahead of the Games.
“As a multi, it’s not advised to switch up coaches, especially now. My coach knows what it takes to be a multi and I just can’t go to Tokyo with a coach I’ve never trained with and expect the meet to go well.
“I know he’s going to set me up to succeed. I’m happy we get to get experience this because he has invested a lot in me. He sees and knows what I can do,” Gittens said,
According to her, many coaches don’t know what it’s like to work with a multisport athlete. The heptathlon is made up of seven events; long jump, high jump, javelin, shot put, 100m hurdles, 200m and 800m, and is contested in that order over two days.
Athletes are allowed 30 minutes between events for treatment and to start warming up for the next event.
She continued, “After a sprinter runs a 100-metre race, they get treatment. But I have to get treatment and go back again for another event. It’s hard to finish a multi and if you’re not getting worked on throughout, it’s difficult to finish and it’s tougher on your body.”
From now until June 19, Gittens will continue with hep training until the final calculations are complete on her possible Tokyo qualification. If she doesn’t make the cut for the hep, Gittens will transform her training regime for the long jump only.
The next couple of weeks will be physically demanding on her body. However, Gittens said it may become easier knowing qualification has already been achieved.
“I’m excited because it’s different training and not regular season training. It’s not going to be as taxing. It will be the same amount but I feel like I will be a lot happier doing it because I’ve overcome that Olympic qualifying process already.
“I have a chance at medalling in two of my events (once qualified for hep). That’s something that not everyone can say going in (to the Olympics) so I’m happy and excited. It makes me want to train,” she closed.