For Ackelia Smith, lessons from Budapest fuel Olympic dreams and inspire future jumpers

By July 05, 2024
For Ackelia Smith, lessons from Budapest fuel Olympic dreams and inspire future jumpers Texastfxc

Ackelia Smith, the standout 2024 NCAA long and triple jump champion, is channeling the lessons learned from last year’s World Championships in Budapest as she eyes the Paris Olympic Games. After recovery from serious injury early on in the season, her recent performance at the Jamaica National Championships, where she potentially qualified for both events, underscores her steely determination.

Her achievements at the Jamaica National Championships, including winning the long jump with 6.53m and placing second in the triple jump with 14.44m, further demonstrated her ability to bounce back. Although short of the Olympic standards of 6.86m and 14.55m, Smith’s season-best performances of 6.79m (with an indoor jump of 6.85m) and 14.52m at the NCAA Championships, have earned her rankings of 21st in the long jump and 23rd in the triple jump, respectively. This means the University of Texas graduate, who recently signed a professional contract with Puma, is on track to compete in Paris.

In March, Smith faced a significant hurdle when she suffered a hamstring injury, with doctors predicting a six to eight-week recovery. Defying expectations, she returned in early May to win both the long and triple jumps at the Texas Invitational with wind-aided marks of 7.10m and 13.51m. “That injury that I had was a hamstring tear. That has definitely healed. Being in explosive events, I try to stay as technical as I can. I am not perfect but I try to be as close to it as possible and make sure I work on my recovery, and always do my treatments. You have got to take care of your body so you can come back and do that every day,” she said.

However, injury has not been her only challenge. At the Budapest World Championships in 2023, a massive leap deemed a foul prevented her from advancing to the final. Reflecting on the setback, Smith shared, “It was a big jump; it was very frustrating because as a young athlete this is your time and going in with the world lead, I really wanted to make the final. But sometimes what you plan is not what you get but it was a lesson and I have learned from it. I kind of left it late and now I know that if I am going to do it I have got to get it out of the way early.”

Balancing a rigorous training schedule with the demands of a competitive season, Smith is preparing for the challenges ahead. Drawing on her experiences from two World Championships, she and her coach have fine-tuned their training to peak at the right time. “You know, I’ve already been to two World Championships and those were later on in August after having a whole NCAA season. I use those as experience, me and my coach, and we say ‘Okay, we need to adjust training, we need to address everything else around it and the goal itself is the Olympics,’” Smith explained. “Even though we have the nationals, the NCAAs, and all that, I think my coach was like, ‘You’ve got to be ready for the Olympics.’”

As she prepares for the biggest event of her life, Smith plans to participate in more competitions to fine-tune her skills and honour her country. Her journey is not only about personal success but also about inspiring the next generation of athletes. “It’s really great but I think even better it is for the young athletes coming up because they think they have to choose one,” Smith emphasized. “Making it in both shows that you don’t have to; once you qualify you can just perform, and you can do good and you can make it in both.”

Leighton Levy

Leighton Levy is a journalist with 28 years’ experience covering crime, entertainment, and sports. He joined the staff at SportsMax.TV as a content editor two years ago and is enjoying the experience of developing sports content and new ideas. At SportsMax.tv he is pursuing his true passion - sports.

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