As Britain’s top triple jumper in 2017, Nathan Fox believes he has much more to give and is hoping to prove it at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games
The message ‘Comfort is the poison’ blazed from the back of the stage and really resonated with Nathan Fox. The triple jumper, watching comedian Chris Rock during his recent tour, knew how important it could be to remember those words.
“It was really poignant to me and it stuck out, because it’s relevant to any field, any sector, anything that you do – the moment you get comfortable is the moment that someone can come and overtake you,” says the 27-year-old. “I’ve definitely fallen victim to becoming comfortable in the past and that’s just a gentle reminder that you should never get that way.
“Even if you’re No.1 in the country, so what? You’re not number one in Europe or the world yet, so you’ve always got to keep pushing. Everyone is always coming for the person at the top so if you’re resting they’re eventually going to surpass you.”
“The moment you get comfortable is the moment that someone can come and overtake you”
There has been no slacking from Fox during the past few months, that’s for sure. Keen to build on his senior GB debut at the IAAF World Championships in London last summer, the Shaftesbury Barnet Harrier has been using the upcoming Commonwealth Games in Australia as further motivation as he looks to make the most of being injury-free and in form.
Fox had been one of Britain’s top rising triple jump talents, setting the national under-15 record of 14.11m – a mark that still stands – as a 14-year-old in 2005 and placing fifth at the European Youth Olympics in 2007.
However, just a year later he was hit with the first of two serious injuries which would drastically derail his transition from the junior to senior ranks.
His senior major comeback came at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, where he placed sixth for England. Now, however, he’s going for gold.
“It has been a rollercoaster 10-year period but I finally feel that I’m in a stable position and like I can only build from here – making major finals and eventually winning major medals,” says Fox, who recorded PBs both indoors and outdoors last year, with his best of 16.81m set in Florida in May.
“It was the 2014 Commonwealth Games that kind of kept me in the sport. I had graduated from university the year before and said I was going to give it one year of not working – I was going to dedicate it all to triple jump – and if I made the team then that would be an indicator that I should stay in the sport. So that was a really big thing for me. This year I’ll be going for gold on the Gold Coast.”
Helping Fox towards that target, and pushing him on to try and avoid that dreaded comfort zone, is his coach Tosin Oke, the 2010 Commonwealth champion.
“What I like about training with Tosin is that he is very methodical, very precise. He always demands a hell of a lot and always brings out a lot of intensity from myself,” says Fox, who is managed by Twine Management and trains in North London.
“I’ve been working on technical aspects of my jumping. Having jumped a personal best last year, it’s building on the things that we think could be improved slightly – not trying to change too much, just trying to tweak the little individual things that could potentially lead up to a big jump.”
Now 17 metres and beyond is the target.
“I was a little bit disappointed that I didn’t do it last year,” adds the 2017 GB No.1 on breaking that barrier. “Jumping 17 metres is definitely one of the main priorities this year – get that out the way and prove myself to be a world-class triple jumper. Then, after that, the sky is the limit.
“17.50m-plus is really what you want to be jumping to be among the medals and I don’t see myself as being someone who can’t do that.”
While the guidance of Oke has had an evident impact, the support of his previous coach, 1998 Commonwealth champion Larry Achike, was also vital to his comeback, Fox adds.
“Larry was a big inspiration because he helped me through a critical time in my career, when I had just got injured,” he explains. “He was able to get me back on my feet and get me back jumping really well. He has actually moved to Australia so I’ll be hoping to link up with him when I’m out there.”
Despite juggling athletics with a full-time job in finance, Fox – who studied international business at Brunel University – has also helped to launch sports brand London Reign.
“That was set up because me and some of my training partners didn’t have any funding so we started up this brand, this movement, to represent ourselves,” he explains. “Slowly but surely it has grown organically on social media to the point where we’ve got around 30,000 followers on Instagram.”
“Jumping 17 metres is definitely one of the main priorities this year … after that, the sky is the limit”
Fox knows he is in a position where he can try to inspire others and, even during his injury lay-off, he was still aiming to do just that .
“I ended up visiting schools and talking about my journey for seven years – from 2010 to 2017,” he says. “In that period, I went into 500 schools spreading the message of resilience, never giving up and if you have a dream or achievement that you want to make, you can’t let the setbacks stop you. Whenever I can, I will always try to encourage the next generation and hopefully I can be one of their inspirations when they grow up.”
With all that keeping him busy, it’s no surprise Fox doesn’t have a lot of time to get too comfortable. While he reflects fondly on last year, he believes there is much more to come.
“2017 was fantastic for me,” he says. “I saw it as a lot happening in that one year and hopefully it will be the springboard that I’ve needed to propel me to the level that I’ve always believed I’m capable of.
“Becoming the first triple jumper to represent Great Britain for five years at a global major championship shows that we’ve had a little dip in our stature in the event, especially having the likes of Larry (Achike), Jonathan Edwards and Phillips (Idowu) come before us. I kind of took the mantle upon myself, that it was about time there was a person representing for the country in the event. So that was a really big goal.
“Hopefully if I can break down the door, break down the barriers and show that it is possible, then the rest of the triple jumpers will up their game and step it up as well.”