An elegantly executed high jump can appear almost effortless. In reality, it's a complex combination of athletic prowess, gymnastic flair, precision timing and mental toughness. SPIKES meets Alessia Trost, one of high jump's hottest prospects, to find out more.
SPIKES meets Trost in her hometown of Pordenone: a north Italian town that is also the birthplace, incidentally, of Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Reggie Jackson.
At 6ft 2ins (1.88m), Trost, 20, wouldn't look out of place among Jackson's NBA collegues. But her rangy frame can feel cumbersome when it comes to her own sport.
"Ever since I started, my biggest weakness has been the dorsal curve, because being so tall I find it hard to understand where my feet, legs are arms are – and so understand my position in the air" says Trost, who has taken up artistic gymnastics to help expel her dorsal demons.
“Gymnastics provides a great overall training, not only in regards to the curve. We work on jumps too, like the somersault and the flick, and trying to build up the upper body to compensate."
Trost, like Canada’s world and Olympic high jump medallist Derek Drouin, has also been dabbling in combined events. She scored 4035 points in the pentathlon at a local meeting in Padua, not far off the Italian under-23 record.
“Like in everyday life, multitasking is always good: it is the same in athletics.”
It sounds so simple when you put it like that, but her change in tact is a big leap of faith when you consider that Trost, the 2012 world junior champion, only really emerged into the elite in 2013.
Aged 19, she stunned the athletics world with a 2.00m clearance in Trinec last January.
"When I started to compete indoor last season, I had nothing to lose, those were actually my first meetings as a pro,” she says.
“But after those results, I started to feel a lot more pressure. There will always be this pressure, but back then, I still had to learn how to deal with it and my first experience was catastrophic,” says Trost, who couldn't repeat her Trinec heroics at the European indoor champs, clearing 1.92m for fourth place.
“After the European championships, I went back home feeling desperate, in the sense that it was very hard for me mentally,” she says.
“But then, by the end of the outdoor season, I adjusted a few details and things started to go much better.”
Tall Me Al: Trost is one of the most exciting young athletes in the world.
Trost finished 2013 ranked world number one indoors and came seventh in a high-class high jump final at the Moscow 2013 World Championships. She also won the European u-23 title in Tampere – so what's next?
“We want to jump abroad, especially in the Diamond League, though we need to be accepted first. My coach [Gianfranco Chessa], gives it as granted, but I do not think so. “It would mean shaking off the pressure from the Italian media, and learning how to compete with different pressures, and face different conditions.”
A wise head on young shoulders, when speaking to Trost it's easy to forget that she's still only 20 years old. "There is a lot more to learn outside of the track, like travelling, eating well and so on, because when you are chasing after a performance, those are all factors to consider in the final sum.”
“In the end, my main goal will be the Zurich 2014 European Championships, which don't feel much different from the world championships in the high jump competition.
"I mean, you take out an American athlete and add Blanka Vlasic, so it is basically the same… if not worse!”
Interview by Giulio Gasparin.