High jumper succeeds in leaps and bounds
FOR Parlock teenager Usaamah Vally, it is important that his feet are not firmly planted on the ground because he is steadily on the way up the highjump rankings.
Usaamah, 16, is ranked seventh by Athletics South Africa (ASA) in the under-18 age group as he prepares for this weekend’s South African Schools National Championships in Sasolburg, Bloemfontein.
At 1.92m, Usaamah has the height for his specialist event, and his unofficial personal best jump is 1.95m, a mark he hopes to register officially to claim at least a podium spot in Sasolburg.
According to the latest ASA rankings, he went over the bar at 1.90m at the SA Youth Championships at the Greenpoint Stadium in Cape Town earlier this year.
“I am targeting first, second or third. My dad said if I don’t do 1.95m, then I mustn’t come home,” joked the youngster who trains with his father, Faizal, and at the CKS Athletics Club in Glenwood under the guidance of coach Kobus Blignaut, focusing on plyometric training, cardio work and explosive power.
He got into athletics by chance when his potential was spotted by Orient Islamic School’s head of sports, Lux Gordhan, in 2015. After Gordhan’s retirement, Usaamah joined the athletics club and his jumping improved.
“Since I joined the club, we worked on my run-up and technique, and I went from 1.68m in 2015 to 1.8m by September 2016. If I’m able to make it, I look forward to being a professional athlete.
“The competition in Sasolburg is definitely not going to be easy, because I noticed at the KZN Champs that although not all of the competitors belong to clubs, they still get good training at their schools,” said the teen.
He is in good form. At the recent KZN Schools Champs at Kings Park Stadium he jumped 1.85m for first position, and three weeks before that at a zonals meet, he broke the zonals record of 1.83 by floating over the bar at 1.9m.
Usaamah is still some way off the country’s top under-18 high jumper, Capetonian Breyton Poole, who set a mark of 2.24m at the IAAF World U18 Championships in Kenya in July.
However, the Durban athlete is younger than Poole and has time on his side.
He also has a firm head on his shoulders, starting school at 6am for religious studies, and training daily in the evening. Surfing and social football also keep him active, although jumping has quickly overtaken his earlier passion for the round ball.
“If you can get over how high you
are above the ground, then you can get over anything,” says Usaamah about coping with tournament competition. “At tournaments, the biggest opponent is not the weather or the other jumpers, but your attitude and mentality.”
Blignaut is also optimistic that with the progress Usaamah has shown, there is “definitely room for improvement”. “He is very eager and keen, and just doesn’t want to stop jumping.
“We are aiming for 1.95 at least (for Sasolburg), and working towards the 2m mark by the first quarter of the new year.
“He’s got the right attitude and doesn’t let the mental part of high jump get the better of him,” added his coach.
All going well he will attend two more ASA meets in Bloemfontein and Pretoria next month, followed by the Salga Games in December in Durban, for which he would need to qualify.
Athlete Usaamah Vally says the right attitude is vital in high jumping.