London: New Olympic long jump champion Brittney Reese has dedicated her victory here to the people affected by the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
California-born Reese was studying in Mississippi when the storm hit America’s Gulf coast region almost exactly seven years ago. The former Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College (MGCCC) and University of Mississippi student witnessed first hand the horrors Katrina caused, with beachfront towns devastatingly flooded.
Those events left a deep impression on her psyche and Reese, who won gold with a jump of 7.12m on Wednesday night, always remembers them when she enjoys success.
“I can never forget what happened to Mississippi. It is just about time now that people are coming back to normal. I have seen the worst of it,” the 25-year-old said.
“Every time I went out on the field I wanted to do it for the people who stood by me despite being in such a terrible situation. My house was sandbagged, but the ceiling came down. We did not have air-conditioning or warm water.
“So contrary to all this, when I had the opportunity to go and compete, I knew how blessed I was.
“It is now slowly re-building, but we don’t have too many homes there. So if at all I had something on mind, it was to go out there and jump my best and get this medal for my people.”
Reese, who was recently inducted into MGCCC’s sports hall of fame, was actually a basketball player while studying there. But when she was asked to make a choice, she decided on a more individual sport, namely long jump.
“There came a time when I had to choose between basketball and long jump. So I went and asked my mother and she told me to do the long jump. After all, Mama knows best,” the multiple world champion said.
After a fifth place finish in Beijing 2008, Reese hit the winning curve in 2009, when she won gold at the World Championships in Berlin followed by the World Indoor Championships in Doha the following year.
In Daegu’s World Championships last year she won with a leap of 6.70m and followed this up with gold at this year’s worlds in Istanbul with 7.23m.