ENTER THE SANDMAN: Olasan leaps into the sandpit
WHEN THE promising 6ft 7in long jumper Jermaine Olasan takes to the runway, understandably it is all eyes on him.
The 22-year-old Blackheath and Bromley athlete was the number one ranked junior in the UK in 2010 and became national champion at the Under-23 level in 2011.
But away from track and field Olasan played rugby union in the academy for Premiership club London Irish during his teens and his career path could have been entirely different.
However, it was the resonance from being applauded by a fulsome crowd of spectators before leaping into the sand pit that made his decision to choose athletics that much easier.
Recollecting on how he first began the field event, the Londoner told the Voice of Sport: “I initially got into it when I was 14. I did it at sports day in school and broke my school record. It was nice because I think our school had like 7,000 pupils and I got all 7,000 to clap for me on the runway. I was like ‘I like this buzz’. It was different to what I was used to playing a team sport in rugby.”
Coached by Jonas Tawiah-Dodoo and former Olympic heptathlete Julie Hollman, Olasan trains at the Lee Valley Athletics Centre in north London alongside a group of the UK’s fastest crop of adolescent sprinters, such as 2011 European junior gold medallist David Bolarinwa.
“With them, because they are sprinters and they are faster than me, at first it was almost as if every time we had a session it was like a race day for me because I had to run 100 per cent to their 90 per cent,” he said.
“But it’s pushed me and as a result, in terms of training and running quick, I’ve run probably half a second faster over 100 and over 60 than I had done previously about six, seven months ago.
“It was difficult at first but I’ve got two coaches in Jonas and Julie Hollman, who does my technical jumping. It was tricky at first but we’ve worked it out. Hopefully it’ll reap its benefits come the summer.”
HANG TIME: Olasan in action
Olasan recorded his personal best of 7.59m two years ago but a stress fracture in his back hampered his progress. But having returned to full fitness, he has set his sights on competing at the European Under-23 Championships in July.
“This year the aim is to compete at the European Under-23 Championships which are in Tampere in Finland in July and obviously I’ve got to qualify for that so that’s the goal for this year but looking into the future, if I’m able to compete at a World Championships – either 2015 or 2017, which is in London, and obviously the 2016 Olympic in Rio – I’ll be happy.
“If I set a goal of being a multiple World Championship and Olympic finalist, and if you’re in a final you never know what can happen, you can come away with any colour medal. So that’s my ambition.”
LONG LIMBED: The 22-year-old is 6ft 7in tall
And if you happen to see the statuesque competitor hurtling down the track, Olasan warned: “(Expect to see) somebody who is very, very tall, somebody who is very long limbed, but can move surprisingly quickly on the runway.
“I train with sprinters and I can actually beat a few of them over 30m and my runway is about 30m so I’m pretty nippy. And at the end of it hopefully you see a massive leap into a pile of sand.”