In the grip of lockdown, while most of us were making banana bread, long jumper Jazmin Sawyers was winning the British Championship. No biggie. We caught up with the plucky jumper to talk Tokyo, training and sourdough…
During the first lockdown with uncertainty about the Tokyo Olympics growing, athletes across the globe got their heads down and trained as though it was on. Jazmin Sawyers was no different. She says: “We kind of knew what would happen but couldn’t stop the intensity of training just in case.” When confirmation of the postponement came, initial disappointment was replaced with a steely focus.
Jazmin explains: “I was forced to re-evaluate and decided actually, it meant I had a whole extra year to prepare – a whole year to get better and work on weaknesses. I set myself specific goals linked to the process, how to approach the first round among other things.” Working with a sports psychologist has helped too. Jazmin says: “Given as athletes we’re all around the same physical level, it’s mental attitude that can make the difference.”
Elite sport opened up after 14 weeks of lockdown but Jazmin’s coach was in America – ordinarily she’d be training in Florida with 20 other athletes, who she misses. Travel restrictions meant Jazmin was home alone in blighty and when we spoke she hadn’t seen her coach since February 2020. She says: “I take video footage and send it to him. Obviously, I’d love to see him and my training buddies, but it is working. I have been working with a UK-based coach on technical stuff too which has been good.”
Living in Loughborough close to the British Athletics base means Stoke-born Jazmin has had easy access to facilities and physios which helps. A successful British Championships in September where Jazmin came away with gold medal with a jump of 6.69 metres would suggest it’s going well!
Aside from intense training and competing, Jazmin’s found time to make the iconic banana bread all be it a ‘bad’ one. She’s had a crack at sourdough like the rest of us, learned how to sew and spent time cooking virtually. Of her lockdown activities Jazmin says: “Sourdough made me realise I’m not ready for a dog or kids. I can’t even nurture a sourdough starter! I learned sewing from YouTube and TikTok and accidentally made a dress and I did lots of virtual cooking with my nutritionist and a bunch of athletes.”
The big focus now is getting to the Olympics scheduled for later this year. The plan is to go back to America to train if travel restrictions allow. Jazmin trains hard four days a week which involves intense track and weights, she has two active recovery days including activities like cycling and yoga and one rest day on a Sunday. A psychologist makes sure she turns up for training in the right frame of mind to maximise sessions as well as tackling what to focus on when things are tough. It’s a job, but one that Jazmin worked toward for a long time.
She says: “For as long as I can remember I’ve enjoyed sport. I loved to win and hated losing. As soon as I realised sport could be a job, I wanted it to be my job.” Aware that it won’t be her job forever, Jazmin embraces all the opportunities that come her way off the track too. Music is a big part of her life – you might remember her audition on The Voice with a nervous Dina Asher Smith supporting from the wings. She also recorded the official anthem of the 2018 Commonwealth Games. TV work is something Jazmin relishes too. She says: “I love broadcasting whether it’s panel shows, red-carpet hosting or presenting. My strategy is to say yes to opportunities. I’m not going to be competing forever.”
The Commonwealth Games 2022 in Brum is something Jazmin is super excited for. “Glasgow felt like a home games, but in the Commonwealth Games we compete as the four home nations, so it wasn’t strictly. I am so excited about Birmingham. Apart from the fact that there’s no better crowd than British crowd, it will be great for the city and so many people that don’t normally get to come and cheer on in person will be able to. It will be really special.”
CREATE A HABIT: We asked Jazmin what advice she would give a non-athlete who wants to be fitter and thankfully it’s not rocket science. She says: “Most people think you have to go running or do some sort of intense training when really you just need to find something you genuinely enjoy. Just move. A 20-minute walk three times a week is better than killing yourself running flat out. That just squashes the enjoyment. We’re under-exercised as a nation. Movement isn’t a punishment, it’s a good thing. Just find something you love and form that habit.”