15 December 2017

Did you get my ice-cream?


raAt the winner’s press conference Chaunté explained that to compensate for her absence, she promised her daughter ice-cream. She added, “She is really focused on that ice-cream and is determined to get it and I will make sure she gets it when she sees me in the airport tomorrow night.”

Chaunté has made a great start to 2012.

She won the World Indoor High Jump title in Istanbul in March and at the time of writing has the highest outdoor high jump mark of 2012. That would be an achievement in itself but when you remember that the mother of two had to fit training and competition into family life, it is even more impressive.

How, I wondered, do you become a high jumper? In Chaunté’s case, it goes back a long way: “When I was a kid there was a song by Criss Cross called “Jump. Jump. Criss Cross will make you jump.” I was in the house with my sisters – this was when I was in elementary school – and my head was almost touching the ceiling. I thought, “Wow, I can jump really high!” From that time on I was in love with track and field athletics and I found out that I was particularly good in the jumps. I started doing the long jump and by my freshman year in High School I started doing the high jump.”

At the age of 20 Chaunté was selected for the US team for the Athens Olympics. Going into the Olympics her best ever jump was 1.92 metres, achieved in March 2004. However on the world stage that was not going to be enough to make an Olympic final and she went out in the qualifying competition.

The following year she made her breakthrough, winning a silver medal at the World Athletics Championships in Helsinki with a 2.00 metre jump. She attributed her success to using her disappointment at the Olympics as a springboard: “I was able to harness all the energy, go calmly composed to the World Championships and get a silver medal. It was just a well-executed plan in 2005.”

Chaunté is a follower of Jesus and that is a life-changing experience. As she puts it, “Jesus paid the price for me. To know that Jesus Christ died on the cross for me gives me confidence that when I leave this place I will forever be with God and be in His presence. That means everything to me. Life it is not about storing up treasure for this life, you are preparing for your life when your spirit leaves your body.”

She believes that high jump is part of God’s plan for her life and sees herself as a vessel for Him. “If there is a word that God wants me to speak to someone, I want to be that open vessel. I want to use track to be put in special positions to reach people and to use it as a platform to share my faith with others.”

Her first daughter, Jasmine, was born in 2007 – bringing great joy after Chaunté had suffered a couple of losses previously. She took the year off but returned strongly in 2008. She made the Olympic final but was not quite in the medals, finishing sixth with 1.99m. She was disappointed: “2008 was a bit more difficult. I had just come back from having my first daughter. She was about one year old. I felt ready and I felt prepared but everything did not line up. At that point I was frustrated. “OK God, what is going on?” Something small in my spirit said, “Everything in My timing.” It wasn’t my time and it was wonderful to watch Tia Hellebaut (of Belgium) win the gold medal.”

As a Christian she processes her performances from a different perspective: “In everything I want God’s will to be done and I know that sometimes that does not mean me winning. I don’t think that God is a magic genie that I can pray for a win.”

In 2010 she took a bronze medal in the World Indoor Championships – despite not liking indoor jumping. “The way we do our training we don’t really peak for indoors. We don’t get into our speed training or any kind of strength training. We don’t have indoor facilities and a lot of the workouts we are doing are in 32 degrees Fahrenheit, which is 0 Celsius and very cold.” She followed that medal by breaking the USA outdoor record with a jump of 2.05m.

Her second daughter was born in April 2011, which wiped out her 2011 season: “My second daughter was very unexpected but my husband and I had been through a couple of things where we really appreciate the life of a child. And no matter what happened, I was not going to put athletics and my plan above God’s plan. At that time it was what He had for me and I had to put all my training on hold. I had just gotten the American record and everything seemed to be looking up. It was God’s plan for me to have a daughter and for Aurora to become part of our family.”

If competing with one daughter was hard, life with two daughters was almost impossible. “In the last year I quit track every single day! Every day! I was telling myself, “I can’t try to push to train hard because I have just had a baby.” I had lost 20 kilos. I prayed, “Ok God, whatever you put in front of me to do today, I’ll get through it” and then I would be up all night with the baby and I would quit. “I quit,” I would say, “I am not going back.”” But with a woman’s legendary ability to multi-task, she did go back next day and the next and the next.

Even so, when the 2012 World Indoors were approaching, she was in two minds about it. “I nearly did not come! I came to Europe earlier this year and did some high jump meets. You look at the results and I absolutely got spanked. These girls definitely had the best of me during these meets. I decided I was not coming to the Indoor Worlds. I felt I was not in good shape. Then something clicked at the last meet and since then I have been jumping higher than I ever have indoors.”

Despite winning the gold medal she found the 2012 World Indoors a tough competition. First of all the competition was so fierce that the athletes had to jump the Olympics A standard just to make the final. “Coming into this meet my prayer was: “Yes God, I want to win but even if I don’t, let Your will be done.” I got the win – so I am really excited about that.”

On the morning of the final Chaunté read the Bible and prayed asking God, “What do I do today?” She felt that she received an answer to her prayer. “The word that came into my heart was “fight, just fight”. Going into that last height, I was not in medal contention. I was in 5th place. I thought, if I clear this, at least it gives me a chance to get back on the podium. So that is what I did. I fought. I am just glad I was able to get on top.”

The win sets her up nicely for the Olympics: “It will give me a lot of confidence. Not really having had a season last year, I did not know what to expect. I gauge my outdoor season on what I do indoor because I can jump at least 6 cm more outdoor than I do indoors. Having an indoor best of 2.02, I feel very excited about what might come about when London comes. I think it will be really good.”

Chaunté has another project for 2012, reading the Bible from cover to cover. “I did not want to be a hypocrite. I proudly proclaim Christianity but I had not read the entire Bible. It was very important for me to know what was in it and to be very firm and strong in what I believe in. I made a decision to read the Bible from beginning to end.”

So with being a wife and mother, reading the Bible right through and competing

Stuart Weir