After a thrilling silver medal win in the bobsleigh at the 2012 Winter Youth Olympic Games, Jazmin Sawyers is getting ready to come into the sun after qualifying for long jump for Team GB at Rio 2016.
Jazmin Sawyers is a force to be reckoned with. Aged just 22, the British athlete has made a mark in two different sports, one winter and one summer. And while the similarities between bobsleigh and long jump are not necessarily obvious, Jazmin says her experience at the Winter Youth Olympic Games was great preparation for her first Summer Games.
“It was completely different but there were so many parallels,” she says. “It was a real Games, they set it up and it was amazing and it wasn’t just a kids’ version - they did everything. We had the village, we had the food hall, we had the opening ceremony and that really gave me a taste of what it would be like to do a full Olympic Games. I loved it. I couldn’t have had a better time out there.”
Jazmin originally started out in heptathlon after getting into athletics at school at the age of nine. But when she moved to Millfield School in Somerset, she came into contact with the British Bobsleigh and Skeleton Association, which is based in nearby Bath and was recruiting for the Winter YOG.
“I thought, ‘that looks fun, I’m going to have a go,’” Jazmin recalls. She spent two winters preparing for the Games in Innsbruck where she won a silver medal with pushing pilot Mica McNeill.
But having moved away from heptathlon to compete in the Winter Games, Jazmin returned to the track and moved towards long jump.
“We kind of said: ‘What is the closest thing to bobsleigh? What’s your body ready for?’ And it was a case of, you sprint, you jump in so that’s long jump,” she explains. “The intention was to do it for a year and go back to heptathlon but then I realised I was much better at long jump than I ever was at.”
She went on to win bronze in long jump at the Junior World Championship in 2012 and compete in the Junior European Championships, 2014 Commonwealth Games and U23 European Championships. Aside from losing the weight she had to put on for bobsleigh, Jazmin says the transition between sports was smooth.
“A lot of the training was pretty similar and after my second season of bobsleigh, I came out and jumped a personal best in long jump so something was good,” she says.
And just a few weeks ago, at the end of June, Jazmin won the British Championships in Birmingham with a personal best of 6.75m to qualify for Rio 2016. She will also compete in the London 2012 anniversary Games before heading off to Brazil.
“I haven’t really come down off cloud nine – I feel like I probably should! I need to conserve some energy but I can’t help it I’m so excited,” she says. “I want to be in the stadium and to see the whole spectacle, being out there on the track and knowing that I’m competing in an Olympic Games. I want to make sure I enjoy it for what it is, which is fulfilling a childhood dream and I want to make sure I remember to enjoy it. I perform best when I’m enjoying myself.”
In the final month before the Games, she says she is resting and preparing her body for the competition in Rio – a challenge for an athlete used to juggling multiple sports.
“The more I can recover, the better I do but that’s frustrating because I feel like I’m doing nothing,” she laughs. “Training for me at this time of year isn’t lots of hard, hard work, it’s keeping sharp, short and fast; with the weights, it’s light and fast and that’s one of the hardest times of the year for me because I feel like I want to be doing more. You have to trust that everything you’ve done over the winter has prepared you and that you’re ready.”
And while Jazmin is confident she is in the best shape to shine at Rio, she admits she hasn’t left her bobsleigh days behind her. She says she “100 per cent” intends to return to the winter sport after the Games.“I still train in Bath where British Bobsleigh are based and every day I’m tempted. I miss it, I really miss it,” she adds.