Brittney Reese dominates Track and Field. She just became the first American woman to win the Olympic long jump title since her mentor, Jackie Joyner-Kersee did it in 1988. Brittney is the reigning Olympic and World champion indoors and out. The state of Mississippi is her home, and she was raised in Gulfport. She graduated from Gulfport High School, then attended MGCCC and finished at Ole Miss. I had the pleasure of talking with her as she continues to train in Europe, following the Olympic Games in London.
GTP: WHO WERE YOUR MENTORS IN THE EARLY YEARS OF YOUR CAREER AND WHO ARE THEY NOW AND WHY?
BR: “My mentor was and still is my Coach. Joe Walker is the reason why I am so successful today and I thank him for all he has done for me. We have been together for more than 6 years so we are a team and we are in this together.”
GTP: I KNOW YOU BEGAN YOUR ATHLETIC CAREER PLAYING BASKETBALL, BUT PLEASE TELL ME ABOUT THAT TIME IN YOUR LIFE WHEN YOU DISCOVERED YOU HAD A GIFT FOR THE LONG JUMP. I KNOW HOW IT HAPPENED BUT I WANT TO KNOW WERE YOU SERIOUS BACK THEN ABOUT THE SPORT OR WAS IT JUST FOR FUN? WHEN DID THE LIGHT GO ON THAT THIS SPORT WAS REALLY IMPORTANT TO YOU AND THAT YOU WANTED TO PURSUE EXCELLENCE AND BE THE VERY BEST?
BR: “When I begin track and field it was just to stay in shape for basketball. So I really didn’t realize how much I cared about the sport until I placed 5th at the Olympics in 2008. After that I made a promise to myself to make sure I never got left off the podium again. So far I have been keeping my promise.”
GTP: PLEASE TELL ME ABOUT YOUR TRADEMARK WHITE HEADBAND DURING YOUR COLLEGE DAYS AT MGCCC – WHY DID THAT APPAREL BECOME SO IMPORTANT TO YOU? ARE YOU SUPERSTITIOUS ABOUT SUCH THINGS, AND DO YOU HAVE OTHER GOOD LUCK CHARMS THAT YOU USE WHEN COMPETING OR IN PRACTICE?
BR: “During my college days at MGCCC I wore a headband basically because a lot of the superstars in basketball wore them so I decided I wanted to wear one. I am not superstitious but I always wear a pair of red Nike socks that my coach gave me in college to compete in.”
GTP: WHEN YOU MADE THE DECISION TO GO TO OLE MISS, WHY DID YOU HAVE TO ABANDON BASKETBALL IN ORDER TO BE IN TRACK AND FIELD? WHY WERE YOU NOT ABLE TO DO BOTH?
BR: “When I made my decision to go to Ole Miss for track and field and not pursue basketball anymore it was a decision that my coach made. He wanted me to solely focus on track so I respected his wishes.”
GTP: YOUR COACH CALLED YOU THE BEST PLAYER ON THE TEAM WHEN YOU WERE A LADY BULLDOG, AND YOU EARNED GREAT NOTORIETY AS A BASKETBALL ATHLETE, WAS IT PAINFUL TO HAVE TO GIVE UP A SPORT YOU LOVED SO MUCH – IT WAS SUCH A PART OF YOU, DO YOU THINK THAT YOU WILL EVER GO BACK TO PLAYING BASKETBALL AGAIN, PERHAPS PROFESSIONALLY ONE DAY?
BR: “ It was painful having to give up basketball but it was all worth it at the end of day. The thought of playing professional basketball has crossed my mind a time or two but I’m just going to continue to focus on track until I cant do it anymore then I will see about the future.”
GTP: WHO DUBBED YOU THE BEAST AND WHY?
BR: “ I received the name The Beast from my Ole Miss track team. I was doing a good job at our Indoor SEC Conference Meet by placing in the long high and triple jump and also the meter dash so my teammates start calling me B. REESE THE BEAST and it just stuck with me.”
GTP: PLEASE TELL ME ABOUT YOUR OLYMPIC EXPERIENCE IN LONDON – WHEN DID YOU ARRIVE AND HOW LONG DID YOU STAY? WHERE YOU ABLE TO ENJOY ANY OF THE EVENTS AS A SPECTATOR OR WAS THERE NO TIME AVAILABLE WITH YOUR TRAINING AND PREPARATION FOR YOUR TRACK AND FIELD EVENT?
BR: “ I arrived in London for the Olympics July 29th and I stayed about 13 days. I was there long enough to be a spectator at the men’s gymnastics meet and basketball game. I enjoyed both events and was grateful that I had the time and opportunity to go.
GTP: WHO ACCOMPANIED YOU TO LONDON?
BR: “My mom, 3 aunts and a cousin all accompanied me to London”.
GTP: YOU HAVE BEEN 1ST PLACE IN THE LONG JUMP SINCE 2009. NOW YOU ARE AN OLYMPIC GOLD MEDALIST AS WELL. YOU STEPPED UP YOUR GAME TEN FOLD AFTER YOUR PERFORMANCE IN THE SUMMER OLYMPICS IN 2008 AND HAVE BECOME A FORCE TO BE RECKONED WITH. DID YOU FULLY EXPECT TO BRING HOME THE GOLD IN LONDON? WHO, IF ANYONE OF YOUR COMPETITORS WERE YOU MOST CONCERNED ABOUT IN THE OLYMPICS LONG JUMP EVENT?
BR: “I went into London thinking I could bring home the gold but I was going to have to earn it. I felt like any of them women on the final startlist could have snatched what I trained four years for. So my main concern was to focus on me and do what got me where I was at by simply having fun and being a competitor.”
GTP: YOU HAVE TRAVELED ALL OVER THE WORLD IN ORDER TO COMPETE. DO YOU ENJOY THE TRAVELING? HOW OFTEN DO YOU HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO COME HOME?
BR: “ I enjoy traveling for competition now that I have gotten use to flying. At first I wasn’t a big fan of planes so I didn’t really want to leave. I am now a world class traveler so its fun being able to go places and do what I love to do. I get to go home at least once a month but during the summer not so much but I do love being with my family when I get home.”
GTP: YOU SAID SUCH SWEET AND VERY PERSONAL THINGS ABOUT GULFPORT AND SOUTH MISSISSIPPI WHEN YOU WERE INTERVIEWED AFTER YOU KNEW YOU HAD WON THE GOLD MEDAL. TELL ME WHAT THE COAST MEANS TO YOU.
BR: “The Coast means a lot to me. They have been behind me since day one so I wanted to bring something home to them that we can celebrate together. Hurricane Katrina took a toll on us so we deserve something like this to help put our spirits up.”
GTP: PLEASE TELL ME ABOUT YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR MOTHER, YOU SEEM TO BE VERY CLOSE.
BR: “My mother and I are very close. She is the person that got me back into track so I have her also to thank. My mother has been to every basketball game and track meet that she could make regardless of what time she got off from work. She is the true definition of mother.”
GTP: I REMEMBER SO WELL WATCHING JACKIE JOYNER-KERSEE DURING HER OLYMPIC GAMES. SHE WAS MAGNIFICENT! TELL ME ABOUT YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH HER, I KNOW SHE IS VERY IMPORTANT TO YOU.
BR: “Jackie Joyner-Kersee is my idol. She is a great person on and off the track and I admire her a lot for the things she is doing for our sport.”
GTP: WHAT DOES IT FEEL LIKE WHEN YOU ENGAGE IN YOUR SPORT? YOU ARE SO GRACEFUL AND SO POWERFUL, AND ARE ABSOLUTELY AMAZING WHEN YOU REACH SUCH DISTANCES AND SUCH HEIGHTS…CAN YOU PUT INTO WORDS WHAT YOU EXPERIENCE IN THAT MOMENT?
BR: “When I am engaged in my sport I am zoned out and my focus is on jumping as far as I can. I love competing so I like to get the crowd involved in on helping me jump really far.”
GTP: WILL YOU COMPETE IN RIO? WHAT IS NEXT FOR YOU?
BR: “My next focus will be training for 4 more years to get ready for Rio in 2016.”