Rio Focus Athlete – Brooke Stratton

When we last caught up with long jump champion Brooke Stratton, it was April 2014 and she had just won the gold medal at the Australian Championships in Melbourne. Not only had she won her first ever Open title, she had also jumped a new PB of 6.70m and was ready to fly over to Glasgow to wear the green and gold at the upcoming Commonwealth Games.

Brooke Stratton competing at the 2015 World Championships
Brooke Stratton competing at the 2015 World Championships (photo credit: Getty Images)

Fast forward 18 months and not everything has gone according to plan. A serious stress fracture in her back resulted in Stratton missing Glasgow, and instead was left to work through a rehabilitation program over a cold Melbourne winter. An opportunity lost to compete against some of the best long jumpers in the Commonwealth gave way to a new sense of determination – understanding that at any time a career can be easily be cut short.

A return to the runway in early 2015 resulted in performances well above her own lofty expectations. Competing in all five Australian Athletic tour meetings, Stratton came away with a new PB (6.73m at the Adelaide Track Classic in February) and an all important qualifier for the World Championships in Beijing.

Stratton talking about her PB from Adelaide:

“What made this such a special moment for me was the unexpectedness of the result after coming back from my back injury in 2014 and not having the ideal preparations leading into the 2015 season. I remember getting so emotional after the distance was read out which was mainly due to the relief of being back jumping better then ever after such a disheartening end to 2014”.

The return to such world class performances from Stratton would have surprised many, especially coming off such a serious injury. In many ways it was like she had never left the track, and there was every conceivable chance that she could end up making the top-12 in Beijing.

The Beijing experience was an important one for Stratton, as she jumped 6.64m in qualifying only to miss the final by 2cm’s (also achieving the longest ever non-qualifying performance at a World Championships). Maybe the experience gained from the Commonwealth Games would have placed her in a better position to deal with the nerves and pressure of competing against the best in the world – but either way it was a fantastic effort after a less than perfect 12 month lead up to the Championships.

“When I walked out into the birds nest in Beijing I felt like I was going to cry I was that nervous. I even struggled to sleep a few days prior to my event because of my extreme nerves. I have always been one to put a lot of pressure on myself and always have because I love the feeling I get when all the hard work has paid off. I feel if I had of competed in a few more high level competitions leading into Beijing I wouldn’t have felt as intimidated being around women that I’ve watched on TV, as well as competing against female long jumpers that I look up to”.

So what’s next for this star athlete who has been identified under the NASS (National Athlete Support Structure) as ‘Podium Potential’ – alongside the likes of fellow long jumpers in Mitchell Watt, Robbie Crowther and Henry Frayne? Well there’s probably two things on her mind – breaking through the 7 metre barrier and Olympic glory.

(left to right - Nicole Boegman, Brooke Stratton and Lyn Jacenko)
(left to right – Nicole Boegman, Brooke Stratton and Lyn Jacenko – PB of 6.70m)

So how many Australian female long jumpers have jumped 7 meters and beyond? Well there have been two – Bronwyn Thompson (who jumped 7.00m at Melbourne’s Olympic Park in 2002) and Nicole Boegman (who jumped a wind-assisted 7.12m (+4.3) in Sestriere, Italy in 1995). Thompson still holds the National record with her jump in 2002, while Boegman had previously held the record at 6.87m – when she set her legal PB in Gateshead, GBR in 1988.

In total, including Thompson, only 70 athletes around the world have ended their careers with a best of 7 metres or above – so you can see that it is still seen as monumental achievement once completed. Can Stratton join the illustrious list and become only the second Australian to legally jump over 7 metres – well all the important indicators are pointing in the right direction.

Below we have lined up the performances from Thompson, Boegman and Stratton – from 18 years of age and above. As you can see Boegman had such a consistent career, which included 8 times finishing a year with a SB of 6.70m or above. Thompson on the other hand had three big performances in 2002, 2004 (4th at Olympic Games) and 2006 (Commonwealth champion) – but had an injury interrupted career.

Brooks StrattonYou can also see that Stratton is entering into a very interesting phase of her career. The 5 year span from 2016 to 2020 include opportunities at the:

  • 2016 Olympic Games – Rio, Brazil
  • 2017 World Championships – London, GBR
  • 2018 Commonwealth Games – Gold Coast, AUS
  • 2019 World Championships – Doha, QAT
  • 2020 Olympic Games – Tokyo, JPN
Nicole Boegman - the most consistently high performing Australian long jumper in history.
Nicole Boegman – the most consistently high performing Australian long jumper in history.

The next big step for Stratton is to jump 6.80m+ and place herself within the top-20 in the world. This would put her in the mix for a top-10 performance at the Rio Olympics. The goals would be to then close in the magical 7 metre mark leading into the 2020 Olympics – with maybe a medal for good measure at the Commonwealth Games in 2018. But first – a qualifying mark for Rio needs to be achieved over the coming summer (6.70m), surely a mark well within the grasp of Australia’s number one long jumper.

The ultimate – a medal at an Olympic Games, for which no Australian female has ever achieved. The closest came in 2004 when Thompson finished in 4th place, while in 1988 Boegman finished in 5th. A history making performance from a very determined athlete? We can only cross our fingers and wish Stratton the very best as she embarks on an important 2015/16 domestic season!

Stratton on the season ahead and the 7 metre barrier:

“I would absolutely love to crack the 7m barrier one day down the track. I feel there are a few minor technical aspects of both my running and jumping that I need to work on over the next few years in order to go that little bit further. I am still quite young and I certainly know there is a lot of developing to do before I reach my peak. My goal for the 2016 season is to jump beyond my PB and qualify for the RIO Olympics where I would love to go one better and make the final”.


 

Full interview with Brooke Stratton can be seen below:

Brooke Stratton Interview – October 2015

Q. When you look back on 2015 what would be your no.1 highlight?

Looking back on 2015, my number one highlight would definitely be Qualifying for the World Championships with a personal best jump of 6.73m back in February at the Adelaide track classic. What made this such a special moment for me was the unexpectedness of the result after coming back from my back injury in 2014 and not having the ideal preparations leading into the 2015 season. I remember getting so emotional after the distance was read out which was mainly due to the relief of being back jumping better then ever after such a disheartening end to 2014.

I would have loved to have won the Australian Championships, but I feel after not having the pre-season over winter I was running out of steam and It was time to re-build the base that I had lacked leading into the season. I was very fortunate to have Chelsea Jeansch pushing me week in, week out. It definitely brought out the best in me throughout the season because I love having competition and a challenge.

Q. If there was one thing that you would have done differently in preparing for the World Championships what would it have been?

When I walked out into the birds nest in Beijing I felt like I was going to cry I was that nervous. I even struggled to sleep a few days prior to my event because of my extreme nerves. I have always been one to put a lot of pressure on myself and always have because I love the feeling I get when all the hard work has paid off. I feel if I had of competed in a few more high level competitions leading into Beijing I wouldn’t have felt as intimidated being around women that I’ve watched on TV, as well as competing against female long jumpers that I look up to. The experience of being in Beijing at the World Championships was invaluable and with this experience under my belt I am so excited to see what next athletics season brings.

Q. How did you find the competitions in Queensland prior to the World Championships? Did they provide you with what you needed, or did you believe that more international competitions would have assisted?

The competitions in Queensland were fantastic for my preparations leading into Beijing. The weather was ideal for each of the meets and I produced some decent results. It was very beneficial for me having Chelsea and Naa keeping me honest and pushing me to further distances on the Gold Coast and in Cairns. I was also very lucky to have had my coach (Russell Stratton) come up for the meets as well as having the assistance and guidance from Gary Bourne, which was a huge help for me. I definitely feel more international competitions could have helped me deal with the nerves that I experienced in Beijing.

Q. In terms of international competitions, does it come down to the financial support when looking at including these into your schedule? Would you be looking at competing overseas prior to Rio?

I am extremely fortunate to be a part of the Victorian Institute of Sport who provide financial support to scholarship holders which assists in the cost of preparations leading into a major championship. It definitely breaks down the financial barrier, which is important when international competitions are essential leading into a major championship event. I’d love to compete overseas next year in some international events to gain further experience leading into RIO next year providing I stay fit and healthy.

Brooke Stratton

Q. After missing most of 2014 with a back injury, how was it mentally coming back into competition (first major competition back in the 2014/15 domestic season)? Have you changed anything in your training routine to minimize such injuries?

Coming back to competition after my back injury was extremely exciting for me because there is nothing I love more then getting out there and competing. It was also quite daunting as I wasn’t sure what to expect after having done very little jumping leading into my first competition. Surprisingly I jumped well above my expectations so early on in the season, which definitely boosted my confidence. I achieved more then I had hoped for this season and I consider myself very fortunate to have come back from my injury better then I had left off. It gave me a little bit of a motivation boost and I worked so hard to get myself back into top shape. I haven’t changed a lot with my training, I have more so taken my recovery a lot more serious and I now spend more time stretching, rolling on the foam roller and using a spikey ball for trigger points. I have been working on a few technical aspects with jumping (takeoff position especially) which help take off the stress being put through my back.

Q. How does the 2015/16 season look for you in terms of scheduling? I see that you ran PB’s over the 100m/400m at local interclub, so will you continue to combine sprinting with long jump only competitions?

I have only just started incorporating jumping back into my program after 8 weeks away from the sand pit. After a little break post Beijing, over the past 6 weeks I have been working hard in the gym and on the track aiming to increase my speed, power and strength. I have thoroughly enjoyed competing at my local interclub over the past few weeks and it was a bonus to have ran 2 PB’s. Being so early on in the season, I feel there is nothing better then going along and supporting my squad as well as getting involved. When the pointy end of the season comes along, I will switch my focus completely on my jumping.  I am looking at having my first jump of the season in late January, which I am already hanging out for.

Q. What’s your next big goal in the long jump – do you have a distance in mind that you would like to achieve in 2016 and beyond, or is it more about a placing (making final etc) at the Olympics in 2016?

I would absolutely love to crack the 7m barrier one day down the track. I feel there are a few minor technical aspects of both my running and jumping that I need to work on over the next few years in order to go that little bit further. I am still quite young and I certainly know there is a lot of developing to do before I reach my peak. My goal for the 2016 season is to jump beyond my PB and qualify for the RIO Olympics where I would love to go one better and make the final.

Q. What do you believe will be your biggest challenges in the lead up to the Rio Olympics?

I feel my biggest challenge in the lead up to the Olympics would be to stay injury free. I have learnt a lot about listening to my body and I know there is a hug importance when it comes to recovering between sessions. Training smart and not overdoing it is the key to staying healthy. My coach/ Dad has always been a firm believer of quality over quantity.

Q. Overall what are the biggest personal changes that you feel have been made from a mental/physical point of view from today versus 12 months ago?

To be honest, I haven’t exactly made many changes at all over the past 12 months. I have cut back uni to part time, which I feel has taken a lot of stress off me mentally. I have also started seeing a physio more regularly, which has been extremely helpful in keeping my body in good physical shape. I am so grateful to have such a great support network around me.

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