Godfrey Mokoena ()Godfrey Mokoena () © Copyright

Here comes the hop stepper

South Africa's Godfrey Khotso Mokoena is a former world indoor champion and Olympic and world outdoor silver medallist in the long jump. But at the age of 28, he has decided to revert back to his first love: the triple jump. SPIKES finds out why.

So why did you decide to move back to the triple jump?

"I’ve actually missed the triple jump quite a lot. I was a world junior champion in triple jump back in 2004 and I’m still hoping to do well at it. I still love the event and I never made a total disconnect. When I was younger I thought it would be the event to take me through my whole career. I really want to pursue it more."

Why did you originally decide to quit the triple jump?

"I got an ankle injury in 2007 from training. I couldn’t take the force and the pressure of doing the hop, step and jump – so I had to lay off a little bit."

How are you adapting to training?

"Training is not easy for the triple jump. Thankfully, the training group I’ve joined, which includes Zarck Visser [a 8.32m long jumper] is a great group with lots of positive guys. I like the group [coached by Emmarie Fouche] because they work hard and it makes me work hard to keep up.

"It is good for me because for a lot of years I was training alone. I’ve moved from Pretoria to Johannesburg, but I’ve lived in Johannesburg before."

What is the biggest challenge of training for the triple jump?

"The biggest challenge, for me, is to work on my strength because I am a very lean athlete. My quads and calves are quite weak and my upper body is also quite weak. I am more like the build of a tennis player!

"If you look at other triple jumpers, like the Cubans and [Teddy] Tamgho, they are quite strong. I need to up my game to compete against the best, which is not going to be easy. I need to take small baby steps. I won’t be able to compete until I’m really ready."

How are you working on improving you strength?

"We are doing a lot of explosive power work with weights, and trying to increase speed. I still intend to compete in long jump as well, and I think long jump and triple jump almost go together. It is very tough, it is not easy."

Who are your triple jumping idols?

"I've watched a lot of jumps by Jonathan Edwards [world record holder] and Mike Conley [1992 Olympic champion] recently, and every time I see them I get the passion back for the event. I just need to get back physically, and then I’ll be fine.

"Jonathan Edwards looks so easy [when he’s jumping]. He’s always been my role model. Mike Conley is a fantastic guy. I just like his power."

What are your aims and ambitions for the triple jump this year?

"For now, I think the ultimate goal is to get to the 17m mark, and then I’ll take it from there. I definitely plan competing in both the triple jump and long jump at the Commonwealth Games."

Do you think you can compete against Olympic and world champions like Christian Taylor and Teddy Tamgho?

"It is going to be difficult. I mean, those guys are the highest class of jumpers and they have been in the game a while. They don’t play and I hope to have some of the same attitude as well."