The young Harrow AC athlete is aiming to stay No.1 in 2015, writes Steve Roe
Being young, aged just 13, Jade Spencer-Smith is understandably reticent in certain situations. Yet she was not shy at all when last year meeting history’s greatest sprinter.
He is, of course, Usain Bolt, who was using Brunel University’s training facilities prior to the Commonwealth Games. “I just went up to him and asked if we could have a photo taken together,” recalls Jade.
The Jamaican megastar has never been short of affability in such a situation. He was “great about it” according to Jade; and now the picture has pride of place on her phone and atop the mantelpiece at home in Middlesex.
Jade has done some sprinting herself and won medals in other events, too, but the pole vault is her forte. For the past three seasons she has been the UK’s No.1 in her age-group rankings and with a 3.12m personal best tops the all-time list for under-13 girls.
She cleared that height at the end of last season, in what was her second full year with Harrow AC. It is her local club in the county of her birth, though all of her training takes place a few miles west at Brunel.
There she works out three times per week with coach Ellie Spain and her group of more than 20 talented vaulters.
According to Jade, whose first coach was Brian Hull, Ellie puts an emphasis on discipline in training and self-discipline away from it. “She talks to us about getting the right amount of sleep, eating properly and so on”, says the teenager.
First referring to Jade as “intelligent and hard-working”, Ellie adds: “She trains within our squad system at West London Pole Vault, which includes athletes of a similar age and those ahead of her on the learning curve.
“Having a diverse group to work with has really helped Jade both from an understanding and learning perspective but also from a motivational and role modelling view.”
Jade’s dad can offer a useful sounding-post as well, though in Andy Smith’s case it centres on his position as a long jump coach. In this event his daughter has a best of 4.92m and hopes, she says, to go over five metres in UK Youth Development League matches later this year.
Her pole vault target is 3.50m and “as many medals as possible”. The scope for Jade to achieve those goals will be greater in the year ahead, for the under-15 age group she enters obviously has more competitions than have been open to her previously.
Also on Jade’s agenda is a return to the Spanish training centre she attended last year. Among those there then was Dan Pfaff, for a long time regarded as one of the world’s foremost coaches and the one behind Greg Rutherford’s long jump triumph at the 2012 Olympics.
Being in such company, just listening and learning, would be a boon to any athlete, but for Jade the camp in Murcia was more than that. The facilities were superb and she revelled in her independence, because this was the first time she had been away for so long from Andy and her mum, Jackie.
“I had to make my own decisions – as well as my own bed!” she says with a chuckle. “I’m really looking forward to it again.”
You can find further performance stats on Jade on Power of 10 here.
» Support young athletes via the Ron Pickering Memorial Fund, see rpmf.org.uk