TOKYO — When the Tokyo Olympics were postponed a year due to the coronavirus pandemic, U.S. long jumper Brittney Reese quickly had to adapt.
Reese, who was 33 years old at the time, had already planned for Tokyo to be her last Olympics. The postponement could have stifled her Olympic dreams. Yet she refused to let the one-year delay end her quest for a fourth and final Olympics, so one of her first assignments was to revamp her garage.
“We had to accommodate. I turned my garage to like a gym, so I could have some type of lifting going on. That was kind of how it affected us because we had to kind of like maneuver and change somethings to try to stay in shape as much as we possibly could,” Reese said to USA TODAY.
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As it turned out, the at-home gym and the one-year postponement was in many ways beneficial for the veteran long jumper.
“It gave a lot of athletes like myself, because of my age, time to focus on some of the more important things as far as my hip movement, general strength training and strengthening up my ankles and things like that,” she said.
Reese’s workouts in her converted gym, combined with her strength, conditioning and technique evaluation paid dividends. In Tokyo she advanced to Monday’s final with a jump of 22 feet, 6¼ inches on Sunday morning.
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‘She just floats in the air’
At 34, Reese leaped a season-best 23 feet, 4 ¾ inches to win the women’s long jump by more than three inches, and in the process sealed her ticket to Tokyo. Tara Davis, who is 12 years younger than Reese, placed second with a jump of 23 feet, 1 ¼ inches.
“I’m freaking jumping with my idol, Brittney Reese. Being with her and competing with her in 2016, I was so starstruck,” Davis said after qualifying for her first Olympics. She also advanced Sunday to the final in Tokyo.
“I was like, ‘I see her on TV and now I’m jumping with her.’ Seeing her jump 23 (feet), 4 (inches) is not the same as me jumping 23 (feet), 5 (inches). She just floats in the air.”
Reese’s victory was her 13th career national title and cemented herself as one of the best long jumpers in U.S. history.
The Ole Miss product is one of four women in American history to qualify for the Olympics in the event four times, joining Willye White (five times, 1956-72), Martha Rae Watson (four times, 1964-76) and Jackie Joyner-Kersee (four times, 1984-96). Furthermore, Reese is now one of just 16 women to make Team USA four times in track and field.
Trying to end her Olympic run on a positive note
Reese placed fifth in the women’s long jump at the 2008 London Olympics before capturing her first Olympic gold medal in 2012 at the London Games. She was the runner-up at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
While Reese is unsure if she will officially retire from track and field after Tokyo, she is certain that this will be her final Olympics.
“Most definitely. I’m trying to end on a positive note. This is definitely my last Olympics,” Reese said. “I definitely want to end my last Olympics with a bang and come home with a gold.”
Reese’s season-best jump at the trials ranks No. 3 in the world this year. It was her best wind-legal jump since 2017.
The veteran long jumper is hoping to leap a new personal record in Tokyo. Her lifetime best of 23 feet, 9½ inches was set in 2013.
She also aims to close in on Joyner-Kersee’s 24 feet, 7 inches, the American record, and Galina Chistyakova’s world record of 24 feet, 8¼ inches.
Reese told USA TODAY she’s determined to retire from Olympic competition “with a bang.” Winning an Olympic gold medal would classify as one.
“I am a PROBLEM,” Reese posted on Twitter after winning the long jump title at the trials.
Her long jump competitors in Tokyo are likely going to have a problem beating a motivated Reese in her fourth and final Olympics.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Veteran US long jumper Brittney Reese wants to finish her final Olympics with a bang