This is part two on the retirement of Lavern Spencer, written by Stuart Weir. This second piece is ten questions that Stuart Weir gave to Levern about her long and storied career.
Lavern Spencer, photo courtesy of damajority.com
Levern Spencer’s retirement and more, in 10 questions
1. Why did you decide to retire now?
Many people are asking me that question. But it was a decision that I had to make eventually. It was a tough decision, made with mixed emotions but after a long consideration. I feel that is the time to bow out gracefully from the sport. I think my body and my mind have let me know it’s time to give up! I know that now is the time to hang up my spikes. My body was giving me the message “OK, Levern. It’s time”.
2. What’s next?
At the Olympics I got a torn hamstring and since then I have been doing rehab and getting treatment. After that, I decided just to relax for a while and unwind. To wind down and just enjoy relaxing and taking time away from the sport. I have a lot of options open right now for the future but I am still processing everything and I will see how it goes.
3. Tokyo – how was it?
The Tokyo Olympics were definitely different because of the pandemic and everything. Competing with no spectators was a new experience for a lot of athletes. Most athletes perform well in front of a big crowd – with cheering and support from friends and family. But with no one there you had to pull out your own inner support and strength to compete. That was different.
We weren’t able to go anywhere in Tokyo and had to take tests every single day. Not being able to mingle with other athletes was strange. It was very much a case of go to the track, eat and go back to your room. For sure it was a different experience.
4. Where you injured before Tokyo or did happen there?
I was healthy going into Tokyo and had been to a training camp in Japan with the PANAM team. Everything was fine. I trained every day. I jumped, I ran, I lifted weights and I was fine. When we moved into the village I continue to train and it was fine. On the competition day, my hamstring started cramping really badly. I don’t think I was dehydrated because I was drinking a lot. I knew it would be hot so I tried to stay hydrated. But the more I jumped, my hamstring started grabbing more and more. Because it was the Olympics, I continue to push myself and I think I just made it worse. I should probably have stopped but at the Olympics you want to give 100%. So. To answer the question, it only happened at the competition not before which was why I was a little disappointed because I had trained well and I had moved to the UK to prepare for the Olympics. But it just didn’t turn out the way I expected it to. But at the end of the day, God is in control , so it probably wasn’t meant to be.
5. Career highlights?
I have a lot of highlights and a lot of good achievements. The two most important ones were the 2018 Commonwealth Games where I created history by being the first St. Lucian to win a Commonwealth gold medal and in 2016 when I became the first St. Lucian to make an Olympic final. Those would be two of the major highlights.
I wouldn’t call it a disappointment but one thing, if I could go back and do something differently, I would try to get access to a world class facility and training earlier. I wish I could have started working on my technique at a younger age. I did not start high jumping until I was 14, but I didn’t get proper coaching and training until I was 20, which is very late. So if I could change one thing it would be to get world class facilities earlier so that I could improve my technique at an earlier age.
7. Is that a frustration that you never quite made the magic two meters?
I don’t want to say to frustration. Yes, my PR is 1.98, but I got close to two meters a number of times. 1.98 is not far off two meters but somehow two meters puts you in another class. Everyone wants to get to the two-meter mark, which puts you on another level. I would have loved to get a PR but I’ll still be happy with my career and what I have achieved throughout the years. I’ve seen some athletes clear 2 meters and then never do it again. When you have a high PR it is harder to beat it.
8. What is the secret of your longevity?
With my manager I formulated a motto: God + hard work + discipline = success. I have used that motto throughout my career. Anything that I have achieved so far was all God’s doing – not through my own strength, but because God allowed it to happen. I stress hard work because nothing in life comes easily, you have to work hard. Disciplined means accepting a lot of sacrifice. And I think that all three embody success. Throughout my career the motto motivated me and pushed me to keep going in the sport. I did the little things that I needed to do on my own to minimize injuries – like going to a chiropractor, having massages or doing extra stretching, just to keep my body in the best possible shape I could. It enabled me to compete for 23 consecutive seasons without having any major injuries. I didn’t have to sit out any seasons and I’m thankful that God kept me going this long.
9. Which jumpers did you admire over the years?
I have certainly competed with a lot of high jumpers. When I was growing up there wasn’t really one high jumper who inspired me. As I developed in the sport I enjoyed watching Blanka Vlasic. Just watching the way she went over the bar showed what good technique she had, which was something I wanted to emulate. At one stage I had a photograph of her in my room, as a kind of motivation!
10. The current state of women’s high jump?
I think in the near future it will be very competitive. Last season we had Nicola McDermott, Yaroslava Mahuchikh and Maria Lasitskene so we have a few jumpers at the same standard and some jumpers like Iryna Herashchenko, Yuliya Levchenko and Vashti Cunningham who are not far behind. I think it is so competitive that it will often come down to who is the better athlete on the day. I don’t think I can pick one athlete but there are several who are always capable of putting on a good show for the spectators.
See previous post on Levern:
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