SPRING IN STEP
Long jumper Naa Anang has her sights on a Games medal
LONG jumper Naa Anang stared down the disappointment of missing an Olympic debut in Rio this year with a 13cm improvement that has her right in the mix for a medal at next year’s Commonwealth Games.
Anang, who recently joined students from 17 Gold Coast schools at a Commonwealth Games “countdown challenge” at the Super Sports Centre at Runaway Bay, made her senior Australian debut at the world championships in London earlier this year, finishing 22nd in the long jump.
“I just really wanted to take it in and not put too much pressure on myself,” Anang said.
“I am still young, a lot of jumpers are older when they do really well and I just wanted to enjoy my first world championships, take it all in and see what it’s like to compete at that level.
“It’s so easy to get caught up in thinking ‘I have to do my best, I have to make the final’. But for me, it was just an achievement being there, so it was really enjoyable for me.”
Anang, who set a new personal best jump of 6.68m in July, has a Commonwealth Games A qualifier (6.65m) and needs only to place in the top two at the selection trials at Metricon Stadium in February to be automatically nominated to the team.
“It’s not a given but you can have a bit of confidence knowing that you already have a qualifier, your main goal now if just to get to nationals and be fit,” Anang said.
“I can focus a bit more on getting stronger and getting ready for nationals as opposed to trying to qualify by the end of this year.”
While Anang followed her older brothers into Little Athletics, she was introduced to jumps by her former Brisbane State High School coach and John Davis.
Now a member of Gary Bourne’s crack jumps squad, she is thriving under the man she regards as the best coach in the world.
“Gary is so knowledgeable, but he’s so patient, he used to be a teacher and you can really see that side in him when he’s coaching you,” she said of the man who guided arguably Australia’s greatest female jumper and Anang’s idol Bronwyn Thompson.
“He’s probably the best coach in the world, I’d say. I’m very biased. It’s awesome to be in that training environment with other elite athletes.
“I think it makes a difference.”
Anang hopes to be able to test that theory on the Gold Coast next April. And this year’s world championships gave the Brisbane product a taste of how a home crowds will get behind all their athletes.
“It was so good being at world champs and seeing the crowd and how they reacted to their own team,” she said.
“Getting a taste of what it would be like here got me really excited about what’s coming (with the Commonwealth Games).”
Long jumper Naa Anang says her experiences at the world championships have given her a sense of how much of an advantage a home crowd provides.