October 26, 2017

Chelsea Jaensch

(info about Chelsea Jaensch)

Renewal in track and field

Thomas Kieller

Photo – Copyright Ryan Murphy

Chelsea Jaensch: In full stride during a jump.

In her youth, Chelsea was fond of athletics while doing running and jumping. Well, at eleven years old, she was already jumping 5.12 meters! One thing leading to another, she participated in her teen years in heptathlon competitions where she had her share of success. Nevertheless, she left the world of athletics at the age of 19 years old to focus on education and other aspects of life. She graduated in 2005 from the University of South Australia with a bachelor degree in medical radiations. Then, she worked a few years in this domain while enriching her knowledge. Always passionate about track and field, she decided to come back in 2012 in long jump after a pause of seven years. Greatly motivated and with a lot of aspirations, the South Australian women leap in a new adventure. She moved to Brisbane in order to concentrate more on her discipline with her coach Gary Bourne of the Queensland Academy of Sport. Indeed, Chelsea has some natural abilities to jump. However, she worked hard to develop among others her strength, speed and technique. Quick, powerful and with some sprinting abilities, the athlete demarked herself in 2015 with a first place at the Australian Athletics Championships in Brisbane with a 6.74 meter jump. Thereafter, her efforts were rewarded in 2016 with her participation at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. What an achievement for the athlete who came back to competition just a few years ago.

The written interview was done October 9, 2017. It was done in English.

Comeback to competition

Thomas Kieller: After a seven year break where you focus on education and on other things, you came back to long jump in 2012. What motivated you to do this?

Chelsea Jaensch: I was at a point in my life where I was dealing with anxiety from a relationship breakdown. One of the things I was encouraged to do was to go back to activities that I used to enjoy or was passionate about, but no longer did. Long jump was one of these things like learning about food and wine, travelling and socializing. I was tired of feeling down and wanted to feel confident in my ability to be myself. I wasn’t as fit as I used to be, and wanted to regain some feeling of health, in an environment that was familiar and safe to me. I was bored of being stuck, and wanted a change and a fresh start.

Thomas: Did you have some doubts when you returned to athletics? What was your mindset at that time?

Chelsea: Of course! Naturally. I often wondered what would have happened if I kept going with athletics and wondered if I could have been successful at it. Watching others succeed (who went through the junior ranks with me) made me consider what might have been. I never really felt that I fulfilled my athletic potential. That burning thought was one of the main drivers for returning to long jump, second to restoring my mental and physical health. I went through waves of anxiety, fears of failure, thoughts of giving up, but I was determined to see how far I could go. These are ongoing themes for me even now, which I’m sure every other athlete has too.

Thomas: Did you give yourself some goals when you came back?

Chelsea: Yes. Originally I had small goals, like being able to commit to the training, and to enjoy the road to getting fit physically and mentally. After six weeks of training I competed at my state championships, and won, which allowed me to compete at nationals. I thought that if I made it to an Open Australian Nationals and jumped six meters, I would retire and continue on my merry life. Once I achieved this in a matter of weeks, I thought I could do more, so I set my sights on a national medal, a national team, a national title and then the Olympics.

Thomas: After a long break like this one, was it difficult to train regularly again?

Chelsea: No, not really. It was easy to fit the training in when I enjoyed it so much. However the types of training I was doing was quite different compared with the training I have done since working with my coach Gary Bourne. The size of the sessions, load and technical aspects of gym and running were very difficult, and it was hard to maintain momentum throughout the training cycles and keep up with the new ways of training. Even having the past year off with injury, it’s been just as difficult to get the balance right.

Thomas: However, during your pause from long jump, I believe you played some netball as a midcourt player. Did this sport help you maintain a good physical conditioning? And did you do something else during that time concerning sports or activities?

Chelsea: Yes, I played quite a lot of netball at a high level. I loved being part of a team, and learning new skills and plays. It was challenging and I developed good fitness as a midcourt netball player. It was physical and not great on my joints, but let it consume my time five nights a week. I also played social badminton and volleyball for a bit of fun, or did indoor rock climbing and snowboarding.

Training of a long jumper

Thomas: Could you explain the mechanics in long jump? How does it work?

Chelsea: Long jump requires the competitor to sprint down the runway and jump as far as they can from a white wooden board into a pit of sand. It is the conversion of runway speed into a jump that is the most technical aspect of long jump. This happens in the final two steps before taking off (penultimate and final steps). When the competitor is in mid-air, the arms and legs move to maintain momentum, ideally landing evenly with feet and body in the pit.

Thomas: In training, what do you do for your speed?

Chelsea: For speed, we do a lot of running and drills. Our gym activities are also structured to facilitate speed. Running over little hurdles, technical analysis, and repetitive sprints focussing on technique and timed testing all build our speed base, as well as fast and explosive lifting in the gym.

Thomas: Do you work out on the track or in a gymnasium to develop your strength and explosiveness?

Chelsea: Both, we do a lot of functional, single leg lifting in the gym like Bulgarian split squats, single leg cleans and step ups onto a box with weights. We focus on creating gluteus strength, as well as stability through our hips and hamstrings. We also do plyometric exercises like bounding, hopping, box jumping, throwing shot puts overhead and also work on the track. It’s important to have a multifaceted approach to developing explosiveness and strength.

Thomas: We can see that in long jump you have to be flexible also, especially when you finish your attempt in order to gain even more distance. Do you do some exercises for this?

Chelsea: I’m not known for my flexibility, but I do make sure I stretch and do gym exercises to simulate the landing. The momentum of the jump helps with the reflex of getting ready to land in the pit, which is something I’m trying to improve on.

Thomas: What would you like to improve with your coach Gary Bourne concerning your physical conditioning or about the technical aspect of your sport?

Chelsea: Gary and I are always looking to improve speed, my transition to jump, penultimate stride and jump technique. It seems like a lot of things but they are small improvements in each. And combined, they have an effect on distance. Gary is a very patient and experienced coach who is excellent at continuing to broaden his knowledge base. He finds the latest research for injury prevention and applies the strength, conditioning and technical elements to our training program to further refine our jumping.

Olympic Games experience

Thomas: Well, we can say that your comeback paid off. You represented your country at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. That’s an awesome achievement. How was your Olympic experience?

Chelsea: It was seriously the proudest moment of my life, and an experience that no one can take away from me. I thought I was going to burst with pride as they walked us out into the stadium. Once competition had started I was so nervous, I could barely feel my arms and legs. Once we were into the second round, it felt like any other competition and was quite underwhelming at that point. The stadium was no longer rowdy and the realisation that I was competing against women I watched on TV seemed surreal. The overall Olympic experience was an interesting one, as the event seemed quite disorganised and unfinished, but it’s something I wouldn’t change for the world.

Thomas: And what did you learned from the competition?

Chelsea: I learnt that I am capable of mixing it in competition with the best jumpers in the world, and to lose myself doubt around this. I also learnt that I can remain composed at competition, despite feeling extremely anxious inside, and that I can jump with a foot injury that’s hampered a lot of my preparation. I also learnt that these big competitions aren’t as daunting in real life as they seem in my head, and that next time I will be able to focus better on the task at hand and not get too overwhelmed.

Thomas: Finally, what is next for you regarding long jump?

Chelsea: I am working towards qualifying for the Commonwealth Games to be held in the Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia in April 2018.

Thomas: Thanks Chelsea.