IN INTERVIEW WITH. . . Christabel Nettey
Long Jump Commonwealth Champion
How it feels to be a Gold medallist and Commonwealth Champion in the long Jump . . .
"I can't even believe it, honestly I feel like I dreamt this for so many nights over so many years. I feel so grateful and so blessed."
Whether she realistically thought she would win a Gold medal one day . . .
"Realistically I knew that I could do it, it was really just about containing my emotions and being able to execute on the day. I knew I had the talent to do it and I worked hard, physically I knew I was ready to go. It was just about being able to put it all together."
What makes a champion . . .
"I don't know, it's a whole lot of things. A lot changes in a year and from where I was in my training last year, is just incredible. I just continued to pray and train hard, this really just makes things easier, being able to know that I'm not in total control but I play a part. I'm not really sure what makes a champion but there needs to be a lot of dedication and a lot of hope."
What has changed for her in the last four years, since she first won Bronze . . .
"A lot, four years is a long time. In those years I have had amazing ups and two years of downs. Now I am on the up again so in terms of training, my programme has completely changed. Mentally I am a stronger athlete, definitely a stronger competitor and every year is a different year. I came into this season knowing that I had to be ready which is nerve-wracking, come off the season that I had last year but I has faith that I would be able to prepare. I had a completely different base season and training then I have in my whole career up to now, so yes it's worked out."
How those downs in her career have shaped her . . .
"So 2015 I had a rolling year, every meet I was breaking records and winning, everything was just really easy. 2016 was then the complete opposite, I was struggling, wasn't making finals but I made the Olympic team. Mentally though I was not in a good place and I wasn't very confident so I didn't make the final. I didn't make it out of the first round which was really hard. So going into 2017 I thought, new year, fresh start but again I struggled the same way. Things were looking a little bit more up but I still wasn't seeing the marks that I knew I had in me. Then finally going into 2018 I moved location so I was optimistic and I just took myself out of it, I said that if this is meant for me then it will happen. There was a point in my indoor season where I thought, you know what, my marks aren't coming and I feel like I am doing everything that I can, maybe this isn't for me? Maybe I have maxed out. I then went to the indoors and made the final, which was the first final that I'd made since 2015! That was very encouraging and I took the pressure off myself, so I just feel so much more free and am enjoying the sport a lot more."
Whether we talk enough about the mental health side of athletics and the pressure . . .
"Definitely not, I wouldn't have even realised that if I hadn't of gone through that myself. It's interesting because when you show up on the day to compete with whatever sport that you play, everyone thinks that everything leading up to that moment must have been perfect and that you are at your best. But there is so much that goes on behind the scenes, for example, I was heading into the stadium just a few days ago and our bus driver got lost. It's really only a ten minute journey but we were on the bus for over thirty minutes, it's just stuff like that, the chaos of things that you don't want to deal with when you are getting ready to compete. People don't ever consider that you might have lost a family member or you are having financial issues, whatever the case is, people just take your results and just think that you're not good enough. There is definitely a lot that goes on behind closed doors and I think athletes feel the pressure to brace everything and not share their stories of their lows, because people might think that it's a cop-out. Mental health is real and it definitely affects all athletes."
How she ensures being an athlete doesn't become her sole identity . . .
"Well I am a person outside of long jump, but because I have been doing this for so long, I think it is how people identify with me. There are people who take the time to get to know me and my character outside of who I am when I'm competing. It's just the role that we play as that person when we are competing and outside of that we are different people."
What motivates her . . .
"I just want to be an inspiration to young girls, young athletes, who maybe don't have someone to look up to. I want to inspire people who don't have someone believing in them or don't have that talent in the beginning. So many doors open because of where you go and who you meet, through sport."
The role her Christian faith plays . . .
"It's so much easier to be vulnerable and to look for outside help when things are going badly. I grew up in a Christian household but I know that in those two years that I mentioned, there were a lot of tears and a lot of prayer. I said it the other night, to win gold, I had literally dreamt this dream and I have prayed this prayer multiple times. I was fearless in my faith and I really believe that God prepared me for this moment. There were so many things leading up to the Commonwealth Games that have changed and He was preparing me for this moment, I won the competition on my first job, which is not really heard of. I knew that this was my moment and He gave it to me to glorify Him. I'm glad I could do that."
The challenge of following Jesus whilst giving her all to the long jump . . .
"I think it's just about priorities, when I was younger I was more into just having fun and God was maybe on the back-burner. But now I think my life is a lot more simplified and It's really easy to integrate Him into my life. I'm going to church and bible studies, so it;s really just part of me now."
What's next for Christabel Nettey . . .
"Just to train hard and to keep the faith. I want to keep inspiring others and being a positive role model."