Brittney Reese won all six global meet long jump titles, including the Olympics, from 2009 to 2013, but the last three years brought significant change.
The Mississippian tore a hip labrum in 2013 and dropped to the world’s third-best long jumper in 2014 and didn’t even make the 12-woman final at the 2015 World Championships.
“That was the toughest two years of my life,” Reese said, according to USA Track and Field. “It messed me up not only physically but mentally. I was in a stage where I was thinking about just retiring because maybe I just couldn’t get myself back right. So my coach recommended a life coach and psychologist who does it all, and this year was my last resort of whether I should continue in track and field.”
Reese came back to win the World Indoor Championship on March 18, overtaking the leader on her final jump. The 7.22-meter leap was one centimeter off Reese’s American indoor record set in 2012.
“For me to finally see that I still had that drive … that helped me to be a better athlete and appreciate the sport more,” Reese said, according to USATF.
Reese is being rooted on during her run for a third Olympic team by Alex Wildee, her 8-year-old godson. Reese adopted him from a longtime friend who could no longer raise him.
Alex lived with Reese’s mom for two years, but this year Reese began raising him, according to USATF.
“He’s a good motivator,” Reese, now a single mom, told NBC’s affiliate in San Diego. “He’s at the end of the runway saying, ‘Let’s go, Brittney!'”