The world indoor bronze medallist believes she has put to bed problems with performing on the big stage
Lorraine Ugen has displayed a special amount of mental fortitude to overcome the issues which blighted her early international career.
To be frank, Ugen’s record at junior and under-23 level for Great Britain was poor. Failures to qualify for European and world junior finals in 2009 and 2010 carried over into 2013 where the Thames Valley jumper came up short again in qualification, this time in the European Under-23 Championships and at the World Championships in Moscow – the latter she failed to register a jump.
For the 24-year-old to finally find some regularity in her performances in 2015, a year before the Rio Olympics, could hardly have been timed any better. An early-season leap of 6.96m – albeit with a following 5.8m/sec wind – laid the groundwork for her to open her Diamond League campaign in Doha with a PB of 6.92m.
A fifth-placed finish in Beijing at the World Championships where she hit a second round jump of 6.85m was a sure sign of progress, and the promise was authenticated in March when she leaped to her first international medal at the World Indoors in a British indoor record-equalling 6.93m.
“Last year was my most consistent year. That’s when I realised I could be consistent,” she said. “The year before I’d had one or two good jumps throughout the year and other than that the jumps weren’t great, whereas last year I was able to put world-class jumps together back-to-back at Diamond Leagues.
“That definitely gave me the confidence going into the World Champs that I’ve been doing against these girls in the Diamond League, and they’re the same people I’ll see at the World Champs. So it wasn’t a big deal.”
Issues with “trust” in her run-up are what she believes her past problems boiled down to, and were slowly but surely rectified once Ugen chose to make a leap of faith over to the US to study at Texas Christian University where she teamed up with coach Shawn Jackson.
She said: “One thing I used to do a lot was I used to look down at the board while I was running down the runway and try and judge where I think I’m going to end up. He taught me how to not do that and just trust my runway was going to work.
“I started doubting where I’d be on the board and adjusting my runway. I obviously wasn’t very good at that. That’s why I had so many fouls.”
The confidence which has come with her successes has gone some way to banishing any concerns over her current condition despite Ugen having jumped competitively in just one competition since May – a disappointing qualification round at the European Championships where she finished with a windy 6.33m as her best effort to finish 18th out of 24.
The Texas-based jumper has been nursing a hamstring tear though fears over her strength and fitness are non-existent as Ugen has spent the intervening period maintaining her physical attributes.
But the rhythmic problems on the runway which dogged her career as a junior athlete in international competition resurfaced in Amsterdam, meaning Ugen will be required to snap straight back into form once she steps into the arena in Rio.
“Some people like to use competitions as a way to train as well, especially the sprinters who sometimes need to use the competition to find their form,” Ugen said, “whereas most of the time I go to the competition ready to go. It’s not really a problem for me. Sometimes I can open up my season and my jumps are pretty good.”
Ugen isn’t the only Brit jumping in Rio with realistic medal prospects as Shara Proctor goes into her second Games in a British vest as reigning world silver medallist and the first Briton to go beyond seven metres, and Jazmin Sawyers bagged herself a European silver last month.
The world list suggests none of the trio have shown form to win earn themselves a place on the podium, but Ugen believes that they all have the ability to raise their game and be among the medals.
“I think we have the ability to get more than one on the podium,” she added. “It’s all about what happens on the day. You never know what can happen.”