High jumper suc­ceeds in leaps and bounds

Post - - Sport - KAMLESH GOSAI

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.

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