This is an excellent piece on Naomi Ogbeta, by Stuart Weir. We hope you enjoy it. The video kept me laughing!
Naomi Ogbeta has been British Champion at Triple Jump five times (indoor and outdoor) and currently holds both titles. Her dad was a triple-jumper and still holds the Lancashire County record, 27 years after he set it. Naomi has had quite a year, bookended by the two national titles but with a rough period in between involving bereavement, Covid and lockdown. She managed a season lasting 4 weeks with 4 competitions in 4 countries. At the time of the interview in mid-October Manchester was one of the UK Covid hotspots, with a real possibility of sports facilities being shut down again. Through 11 questions we traced the ups and downs of her year.
1. What was lockdown like?
It was quite difficult. My grandma passed away right at the beginning of lockdown. That was hard to deal with, not being able to see the family and with only a few people at the funeral. Then I got Covid myself quite early on in lockdown. At that point I didn’t know what’s going to happen or if we’re going to have a season at all. So, I was short of energy, short of motivation but my coach and my family helped me through that. My coach was really good allowing me to take my time. I started back to training in July, eight weeks before the British Championships, after a period of literally doing nothing. I’m really happy that I had the strength to get through that period and to be able to compete. The training facility was just opening when I went back but even when we did get in, we weren’t allowed to use the sand for the first week. But soon I was able to train as normal except that I couldn’t go to the gym at all.
2. Why did you decide to compete in 2020?
I always like to have something to aim for. When I discovered that there were some competitions for me to do, that gave me more of a desire to compete. Also because the British Championships were in Manchester, my home city, I wanted to represent the city there. I wasn’t sure how well I could jump so I was just happy I was able to put enough jumps together to win the British Championship.
3. Did you have aims for the 2020 season?
No, because I didn’t know what I’d be able to jump and also I felt I wasn’t in control of the situation.
4. What is your assessment of your season?
I ran out of steam! For my first competition, Paavo Nurmi Games, I was so excited that I was going to Finland and I was going to compete and as Finland didn’t have many restrictions there was a crowd in the stadium. I jumped 13.74. I thought that was really amazing, a great start to the season and but when I went to Monaco, which was my first ever Diamond League, I felt tired. When I got to my final even, the British Championship, I felt that every bit of energy that I had had – was gone and I was getting slower and slower. But I am very grateful that I had that opportunity to compete.
5. Did you enjoy Monaco?
Monaco was a great experience but equally I feel I didn’t get the real Diamond League experience because we had to keep to ourselves I wasn’t really able to speak to other athletes. And the crowd was quite small as well. But in terms of how they managed to put on the event, they created atmosphere so that it felt like a really grand competition. I definitely enjoyed it but I don’t think it was the same as in a regular year.
6. Your PR is 5cm short of the 2019 qualifying standard. How do you get to the point where you can qualify for global championships?
This year at the end of my season I got a kind of positive wake up call. I finally allowed myself to accept that I’m a full-time athlete. In the past, I hesitated to call myself that because I didn’t think I was good enough. And that would always lead to me doing other things outside of athletics. I didn’t want to say I was a full-time athlete and then not compete that well. So, I would always be at university or have a job or be doing something else. This is the first year that I’m doing nothing but training and this is the hardest I’ve ever trained and the hardest I’ve ever worked. I know that, God willing, that should bring the results. I don’t have that fear of failing any more that I used to have. I feel that I’m trusting God’s plan. Now that I feel that I am an athlete, I need to train like one. Not that I didn’t train before but now much more committed to my training and I believe in myself much more now. So that’s why I believe I will be able to jump a lot further.
7. What different activities have you done?
I did a politics degree at the University of Manchester and that involved me speaking about Brexit on BBC TV News and on the radio, I did comedy at the Edinburgh fringe with the university, I learned how to do a radio show with a company called Reform Radio. I worked for a football charity called Football Beyond Borders. I was on Salford Youth Council when I was a teenager.
8. What were you doing in Doha?
I didn’t make the team for the 2019 World Championships but I got a call from BBC asking if I wanted to go and do some reporting. I took the opportunity with both hands and did interviewing – including Christian Taylor and Noah Lyles – I did live broadcasting and reported at trackside. When I was in Monaco this year, I saw Noah and he looked at me as if he recognized me but couldn’t place me so I said that I interviewed him in Doha. He asked if I was interviewing in Monaco and I replied that I was competing which left him completely confused! I think he thought that I was a journalist who had somehow made it into the Diamond League! So that was quite funny.
9. How did the video of you in the snow come about?
People often say to me triple jump is such a random event, so I tried to use the skills in everyday life and this happened, pic.twitter.com/O5hUAHVfl9
— Naomi Ogbeta (@NaomiOgbeta) March 21, 2018
I was in the park with my friend and we saw these patches of snow. It just reminded me of triple jump and I assumed that in between there was solid ground. So I said to my friend “I’m going to triple jump it like we are making a documentary on how to triple jump and you can film it.” Little did I know that there was just mud and so as I did the hop phase the ground just disappeared. I landed on my back but I was completely fine and my friend was laughing
10. You mentioned God a couple of times – is faith important for you?
I grew up in a Christian family and faith in God is something that all my family finds super important. But it was mainly when I was at university that I developed my own Christian faith through finding a church that really suited me with people I regarded as a family and discovered my own relationship with God. Our Christian faith is what has kept up our family so strong. Even just this confidence that I got going into next season, I put down to God’s strength. I would say is because of my faith in God which gave me a different mindset. I do believe that things are possible because of God.
11. What are your plans for the winter?
My plan for the winter is to train hard. It’s a bit uncertain because it looks as if Manchester could be put into the highest category of restrictions. If that does happen, gyms will close. But this time I know I will be a lot more motivated to train the indoors. And I know now what lockdown looks like and I know how I can train in lockdown. I would try to borrow equipment so that I can continue training but that would be hard as gym is such a vital part of triple jump. What I would do different this time is try to see what equipment I can get to train with at home, something I wasn’t able to do during the first lockdown.
2020 Competitions (source www.worldathletics.com)
11 August 2020, Paavo Nurmi Games, Paavo Nurmi Stadium, Turku, Finland, A, 4. 13.74m, +1.6
14 August 2020, Herculis, Stade Louis II, Monaco, GW, 6. 13.56m, +0.1
25 August 2020, Memorial J. Seckare, Brno, Czech republic, F, 2. 13.52m, +0.9
5 September 2020, British Championships, Sportcity Regional Arena, Great Britian, B. 1. 13.44m, -0.8