11 questions for Olympic long-jumper Brooke Stratton
When 22-year-old Brooke Stratton jumped 6.68 metres earlier this year, she achieved two incredible goals: selection for the 2016 Olympics and the 2016 national long jump title. It’s been a long journey to success for the elite athlete, who got her first taste of being airborne at the Nunawading Little Athletics Centre at age five. After having to pull out of the 2014 Commonwealth Games with a back injury, Brooke bounced back and her current form puts her in contention for a medal in Rio.
Taking time out from studying a Bachelor of Health Sciences at Deakin University to focus on the games, Brooke spoke to us about her focus, rituals and motivation to be the best in her chosen event.
How do you stay focused before you compete?
I try to relax and not think too much. I listen to music as well, but I would say that I am naturally pretty focused.
When did you discover your love for athletics?
When I was too young to even compete. I entered the under 6s and competed in the 50 metre sprint, which is an event they put on for the kids that are still too young to race, and I won – multiple times. I kept at it and then in the under 8s I broke the record for long jump. In the following year, in under 9s, I won a gold medal at state championships and in under 10s I made my first national team and went on to win gold.
Why did you choose long jump?
Long jump chose me. I was a speedy child and had lots of spring. You need both for long jump.
Do you have any rituals before or during a big competition?
I eat a Snickers bar before I compete! I ate one before my first-ever overseas comp and went on to jump really well at that event. I kept up that tradition and I’ve kept smashing personal bests and breaking records so it seems to be working for me.
How does training for long jump differ to other sports?
It’s very technical. I do a lot of running work and I spend a lot of time in the gym, but my training really focuses on speed and power – I don’t focus on endurance at all.
What motivates you to keep going when you’re exhausted?
I think of my goals and what I want to achieve. I am pretty exhausted at the minute with this current phase of my training, but I tell myself, ‘I am going to Rio!’ so it gives me the motivation to just push through and get on with it.
What has being a professional athlete taught you about life?
You don’t get anywhere without putting in the hard work. You have to give it 100%. I have also learnt to step outside of my comfort zone.
Who is your biggest inspiration and why?
Cathy Freeman. I watched her compete at the Sydney Olympics – I was in grade 1 – and she won a gold medal. I remember thinking, ‘I want to be an Olympian, too’. I also look up to Bronwyn Thompson who won gold for long jump at the 2006 Commonwealth Games.
What do you want to do after you finish your athletics career?
I want to give back to the sport through coaching or similar. I will probably study further too, but I don’t know what pathway I’ll take yet. I like knowing that I can jump straight back into study at Deakin after the Olympics if I choose to.
What do you do to relax?
I love to watch TV, flip through Instagram and just chill out on the couch.
What advice would you give other young people striving to compete in the Olympics?
Follow your dreams, that’s what I did. I had no idea I would make it to this level and look at me now. Hard work, commitment, focus. It’s all paid off.
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