Stuart Weir sent us part 2/2 on Keturah Orji.
11Questions for Keturah Orji
In part two of a two part interview, Keturah Orji talks about the state of the triple jump, long jump, lockdown and life
1. Why did you do long jump and not triple jump at 2019 Panam [second with 6.66]?
I decided to long jump at Pan Am because my agent told me that Pan Am was a good opportunity to get ranking points in the long jump. I already get into triple jump in Diamond Leagues because my ranking is good. My long jump ranking was not good and I felt I needed to get it higher particularly because of the rumors that the triple jumps were being dropped from Diamond Leagues. So my agent said that if it happened, I didn’t actually have a long jump ranking – because I hadn’t long-jumped in 2019. I like long jump in any case so it was great to go there, get a medal and also help my ranking. That was my first medal as a senior. It has also a big deal for me to get a medal in the long jump and prove that I’m not just a triple jumper
2. Do you still have long jump ambitions?
Yes, I do but I don’t know if I would ever double-up at a major championship because often the schedule does not allow for it. But if I ever get to the point where I can make the US team in both events and the schedule allows it, I would love to try that. But either way I am definitely going to continue with long jump. I was down to compete in the long jump at the US trials and I would like to do that again but I don’t think I will do it at the Olympics unless they change the schedule, because it didn’t look as if it was possible to be done. But I do love long jumping and will continue to do it.
3. Is Will Claye is the only person who has tried consistently to do both?
Yes he’s the only one I know. Possibly also Caterine Ibarguen. But as a young athlete I was certainly looking up to Will Claye because he won medals in both in 2012 and I’d never known that before. So I was thinking “Whoa, this can be done” and he was someone I was looking up to.
4. Are you concerned that triple jump is being marginalized?
Yes and I think it’s not really fair. I don’t know how they decide which events to get rid of. I don’t think that if an event is not attracting attention, you should just get rid of it. You ought to work harder at highlighting it more and explaining it more to make sure that fans understand it. Often the triple jump starts before the entire meet – especially the women’s triple jump. So I think it’s a lot of things going on in the background which contribute to us not getting much attention. But I don’t think the correct response is to get rid of the event. I think you could highlight the event and raise the interest rather than getting rid of it. I hope that they will get it back into the Diamond League especially because a lot of athletes, without this opportunity, will not make enough money and you’ll end up kicking more athletes out of the sport. I hope that this can be reversed in future years and that we can stand up for each other rather than thinking “they’ve got rid off the triple jump, but I’m a long jumper so it doesn’t matter”. I hope we can get to a place where we’re all one, whatever event we do. And we will stand up for each other, when other events are being treated unfairly.
At meets they don’t highlight even world record holders. The match-up between Shanieka Ricketts, Ibarguen and Rojas is a huge competition with three women at 15 meters or better. That just needs to be highlighted so that people understand what a big deal it is.
5. I saw you mentioned on a website listing American athletes eligible to compete for Nigeria, is that correct?
My dad is Nigerian so I’m 50% Nigerian. I’m pretty sure he has got me dual citizenship which would be why I’m listed on the website. But I don’t think I’ll compete for Nigeria
6. Why do jumpers have so many fouls?
I think it is difficult to get the run-up right. The board is pretty small, just 8 inches. Think about all the steps you are taking and how precise you have to be, it’s pretty easy to foul. If you just have one drive phase which is just a little too long then that puts you in a foul position. Peripherals can throw you off. You may think you’re a little far out and start stretching to get there and when you get there you realize you’re too close. It’s very precise. The way my run-up goes I have a drive phase, then a transition phase and then the quickest part where you are increasing speed. And so I think it’s pretty difficult to get the exact position every time and hit the middle of the board every time. Yes, it’s pretty easy to foul. Even though you practice the run up all the time. It’s not simple.
7. Do you have any religious beliefs?
Yes. My parents are both Christians so I think the foundation was rooted there. But it was really when I went to college that I started to grow and develop my own faith. My roommate and I always went to church every Sunday and we got involved in different organizations on campus. I feel I experienced so much growth in my faith while I was at the University of Georgia. I was pushed out of my comfort zone doing things like sharing my faith and leading Bible studies- things I’ve never done before. Getting pushed out of my comfort zone made me grow so much. Understanding the gospel correctly was important – that it’s not about what you do to earn your salvation but it is what God has done. And you just have to believe and have faith. I think it was a college where I got a full understanding of my faith.
8. Who is your coach?
Right now that I’m working with two coaches. Jeremy Fisher is the coach who writes my training programme. He is in California where I train with Brittney Reese, Chris Barnard and Will Claye. But because my fiancÃ© lives in Georgia, I spend some time in Florida to be near him. In Florida I train with coach Nic Petersen, jumps coach at the University of Florida, with Yanis David, Marquis Dendy, KeAndre Bates and Darrielle McQueen.
9. What is life under lockdown like?
My life has been pretty normal except that the tracks aren’t open in most of the places I’ve been. I’ve been doing practice in parks on grass fields – anywhere that is open and available. With gyms and weight rooms closed, I’m just using dumbbells and doing weights that way. Because of social distancing I’m not training much with other people. Also people are scattered, some went home.
Apart from that my schedule has stayed the same – I’m reading more and cooking. I’m not really an extrovert person so I don’t go out a lot.
10. How did you react when you heard that the Olympics had been postponed?
I didn’t have much of a reaction because I kind of figured they would have to do it because of the way the virus was spreading and things were closing. I was a little disappointed because I had just have a great season opener at USA indoors. It was a PR and I was thinking “this is a hopeful start to the season”. Then when everything got canceled I thought, “OK, I now have to start everything again from the beginning”. So some disappointment. But I was more happy and proud that they were willing to do it, showing that they cared more about people than they cared about money and events. Prioritizing athletes and their wellness was a very important thing to do.
11. Would you have gone to the world indoors?
Yes that was definitely in my plans.
12. You posted on social media a concern about drug testing during lockdown. What happened?
What happened was this. I had been in many different places during quarantine. That included spending one week with my family in New Jersey. And while I was with my family they drug-tested me. I was frustrated because I had been in so many places but they did it when I was with my parents, who are both 50+. So ringing the doorbell wanting to test me, coming into the house and there were two people, not just one. Of course, I understand that they need to maintain the integrity of the sport. But I wish there might have been a check box or something that I could indicate that I was at home with my parents who are in a higher risk category so that I could indicate that this is not the best week to come because it’s not OK for me to be bringing strangers into my parents’ home during lockdown. So it was just a little frustrating that they had to do at that one week.
Interview 14 May 2020