James Sullivan has been having a chat with one of Australia’s bright prospects, long jumper Brooke Stratton.
Brooke Stratton is an elite athlete from Melbourne, Australia who competes predominantly in the long jump. She finished 10th at the 2009 World Youth Championships in Bressanone, Italy, 6th at the 2010 World Junior Championships in Moncton, Canada and 7th at the 2012 World Juniors in Barcelona. She holds the Australian junior record for the long jump with a leap of 6.60m set in Mannheim, Germany in July 2011.
James: Thank you for taking the time to talk to The Running Review. So to begin, how did you first get involved in athletics?
Brooke: I first got involved in athletics when my brother Jamie started at under-6 level. I used to go along and watch as well as run in the centers under age race each week, which I absolutely loved. I went along to watch my brother compete until I was finally old enough to start.
James: Did you have a particular athletics idol growing up?
Brooke: As a young kid, I always looked up to Cathy Freeman. She really stood out to me as an incredible athlete after winning the Sydney Olympics. As I got a little bit older and identified some jumping talent, I really idolized Bronwyn Thompson.
James: When did you discover you had a talent for long jumping?
Brooke: I discovered I had a talent for long jump after winning the State Little Athletics championships at U9’s. From then on I kept improving and made my first Victorian primary school team for U10’s where I competed in Darwin, winning the multi-event and long jump.
James: The long jump incorporates a strong blend of speed and technique. Which of these do you believe to be your strength?
Brooke: I have always had a pretty good technique which I feel is a huge benefit. My speed is generally good. At the start of this season my speed had decreased a lot which really affected my jumping and I realised that I wasn’t going to jump far until I got that speed back. I started to up the speed work at training and really worked on my technique as well as running on top of the ground. It has only been the past month or so that my speed has rapidly increased and I believe it will hopefully show some improvements.
James: In July 2011 at a meet in Mannheim, Germany, you set an Australian junior record of 6.60m. Can you put this experience into words?
Brooke: This competition in Mannheim, Germany has definitely been one of the most memorable experiences of my career thus far. I went over to Germany with 10 other under 20 Australian athletes to compete in the Mannheim Junior Gala. I was part of quite a strong field in this competition with the current world leader competing but that didn’t phase me because I knew I was in good shape. I felt really good warming up and when I got out onto the track to measure my run up and have a few run throughs I was feeling really positive about what was to come. My opening jump of 6.34m was only 3cms off my current PB at the time, so I knew I had a big jump in me. My next 4 jumps were all fouls. It really frustrated me as I knew they were all big jumps. I tried to keep myself composed before my last jump. I got on the runway and told myself to keep relaxed. I ran in feeling really comfortable, hit the board perfectly and everything came together nicely for the jump. I was not expecting 6.60m to be called out over the loud speaker, so I burst into tears. I got really emotional because it was the first competition my coach Russell (Dad) wasn’t at, and also because it was so unexpected.
James: You represented Australia at the 2009 World Youth Championships and both the 2010 and 2012 World Junior Championships. How would you describe the experience of representing your country at international level? Which of these events brought you the most satisfaction?
Brooke: All 3 of these competitions have been such valuable experiences for me. World Youths in 2009 was my first Australian team. I learnt so much about my event and myself, and I am extremely grateful for that. World Youths in 2009 definitely gave me a great understanding as to what was to come leading into the 2010 World Junior Championships. World Juniors in 2010 was a huge experience for me not only because I was bottom age, but in regards to the extreme weather which made my qualifying rounds tough. I managed to get through to the final, placing 6th, but competing in a competition in pelting rain on a flooded track was something I had never experienced before. World Juniors in 2012 were a different sort of experience for me. I knew what was to come and I knew what I needed to do, but an injury leading into the championships hindered my preparation and performance. Even though I did not achieve the result I wanted, I believe this experience was the best out of all three. I would never change or take back any of these experiences for anything and I consider myself so lucky to be given a gift which has allowed me to travel the world doing what I love.
James: You recently jumped 6.50m at the IAAF Melbourne World Challenge and followed this up with your second consecutive National Championship silver medal. Are you satisfied with how 2013 has been progressing to date?
Brooke: This year has been really up and down. After a good pre season post World Juniors, and a PB of 6.60m set over in Germany in 2011, I feel as though I had a lot of pressure put on me to jump a PB this season. My 2012/13 season didn’t start off as well as I had hoped but each competition seemed to get better and better as I went on. I felt I lost a lot of confidence in myself with a rocky start to the season, but after I jumped 6.50m at the Melbourne World Challenge, I began to feel confident in myself leading into the National Championships. Obviously I would have liked to have jumped further at Nationals but I felt a bit flat on the day and there wasn’t much I could do about that. I have been training really well leading into the Taiwan National Championships so I feel I am in good enough shape to pull out a big jump if all goes well.
James: What are your goals for the remainder of 2013? Do you plan to compete overseas? Are the World Championships in Moscow in the back of your mind?
Brooke: I have been fortunate enough to be one of 6 Australian athletes selected in the Under-21 squad which will fly over to Taiwan to compete in the Taiwan National Championships in late May. This competition in Taiwan will be my last of the season and my last crack at achieving the World Championships qualifying standard. I also qualified several times for the World University Games in Kazan, Russia but my coach and I feel it will be more beneficial for me to have an extended winter training, which I haven’t really ever had. This will give me a good base leading into the 2013/14 season with the Commonwealth Games in my sights.
James: Can you describe an average week of training, specifically in terms of key speed and technique based sessions? How does the mix between the two differ at various times of the year?
Brooke: An average week of training during the season consists of two gym sessions, two specific jumping sessions and two speed sessions. For my speed sessions I usually focus on running short distances, anywhere between 30m and 80m, because this keeps my running consistent and sharp. For technical sessions I am generally doing standing jumps, pop ups, short approach jumps, run up work and sandpit drills. In my off-season I will not be doing much jumping at all, incorporating more plyometrics and lengthening my running sessions.
James: With regards strength work in the gym how much emphasis do you put on this? What sort of specific exercises do you incorporate into your training?
Brooke: Over the past year I have only started to consider gym as a high priority. After heading back from World Juniors last year, I thought I would increase my gym to 3 times a week to get strong for the 2012/13 season. My strength and conditioning coach at the Victorian Institute of Sport, Nathan Heaney, has put together a program for me that really focuses on increasing my leg strength and power. I still don’t quite think my body has adapted to the strength work I have been doing, but I have definitely seen a vast improvement in my lifting of weights since I started.
James: How important is endurance for a long jumper? What sort of aerobic power speed endurance work do you incorporate into your training? Do you run many 200m and 400m races?
Brooke: I think speed endurance is very important for a long jumper, especially during our off season. Over winter I am usually doing sessions that incorporate 100m/200m reps because they really build up my anaerobic capacity. At the start of the season I ran a few 200m and 400m races which I did find very different to running 35 meters down a long jump runway. I feel these longer races allow me to focus on running consistent and relaxed.
James: What are your favourite and least favourite sessions?
Brooke: My favourite are jump sessions. My least favourite are hill sessions.
James: In addition to your accolades in the long jump you also have a strong background in the triple jump with a PB of 13.34m. What benefits does competing in the triple jump give to a long jumper? Do you see yourself competing in the triple jump over the coming years? How do the training requirements for it differ to that of the long jump?
Brooke: Long jump and triple jump are very similar in many aspects and usually when I’m long jumping well, I find I am triple jumping well also. I never really trained for triple jump seriously because I found it put a lot of stress on my body. I just used it as an event where I didn’t have any pressure on me and I could simply have fun with it. My PB of 13.34m was very unexpected because I hadn’t done much triple jump training at all leading into that completion. I would love to get back into triple jump within the next couple of years because its one of the events that I really enjoy and I feel I have so much more to give.
James: You are on a scholarship with the Victorian Institute of Sport. How important is this with regards the development of your athletics career?
Brooke: The Victorian Institute of Sport have been such an enormous help towards developing and guiding me as an athlete. With such great facilities I find it a huge advantage to be doing my gym sessions with a very experienced strength and conditioning coach, Nathan Heaney. It is also very helpful having access to the doctors, physios, nutritionist, psychologists etc. when in need.
James: You compete regularly in the AV Shield, Victoria’s primary inter-club competition, which caters for every athlete regardless of age or standard. How important has this competition been with regards broadening the appeal of track and field and getting more of the average Joes involved in the sport? Going forward, how can this appeal be increased?
James: You are known for your jumping prowess, but you have also regularly tried your hand in other events such as hurdles, javelin, shot and discus at inter-club level. What is the thought process behind competing in multiple events?
Brooke: This year at interclub I thought I would have some fun before the season got serious and compete in some events I wouldn’t usually take part in. At the end of the day, I am only 19 years old and I find doing multiple events makes athletics more enjoyable.
James: Some people believe that Usain Bolt could become a world class long jumper despite the fact he has no background in the event. Do you believe it is realistic for somebody to be able to take up such a technical event from scratch and compete at the highest level, regardless of how fast that person is over 100 metres?
Brooke: I believe having speed is a huge advantage for anyone looking to take up long jump. You don’t see many elite long jumpers jump a long way without having the speed behind them to carry them through the air. With me, I notice a huge difference in my performance when my speed is good and when my speed isn’t so good. With regards Usain Bolt and the outrageous speed he could develop down the runway, I believe he would jump a long way, even without a great technique.
James: When not competing, do you enjoy watching athletics? What current athlete do you like watching the most?
Brooke: I absolutely love watching athletics. I am so passionate about the sport that even if it’s just watching the sport I get a lot of enjoyment out of it. At the moment, I love watching Fabrice Lapierre in the long jump. He is such a talented athlete and the amount of spring he gets off the board is incredible.
James: That’s great Brooke. Thank you for your time and the very best of luck for the rest of 2013 and beyond.
Brooke: Thank you very much