Ato Boldon talks to world-leading triple jumper Pedro Pablo Pichardo for the latest episode of IAAF Inside Athletics.
If 2014 was ‘The Year of the High Jump’, 2015 most certainly is ‘The Year of the Triple Jump’. It all started at the Doha Diamond League (you should totally re-watch the full triple jump competition here) and is looking to climax in the world championships at the end of this month.
In Doha, Pichardo became only the fourth man in history to hop, step and jump his way over the magical 18-metres barrier, only for reigning Olympic triple jump champion Christian Taylor to add his name to the prestigious list in the last round. It was the first time two men had jumped over 18 metres in the same competition.
Pichardo’s 18.06m leap in Doha came a surprise to some, but the 22-year-old Cuban has been jumping around the top of the world rankings for a while. He finished 2014 as the world’s best triple jumper, and in 2013, ranked second in the world behind another 18-metre-man, Teddy Tamgho. At the world championships that year he beat Olympic gold and silver medallists Christian Taylor and Will Claye to take home silver.
But what changed in the past few years, when he was consistently jumping in the high 17s and this season when he turned into ‘that Cuban 18-metre guy’?
“Well, many things have changed,” he says. “The first thing that changed was my coach. Then my father started being more present during training sessions. I’m training with him and Daniel Osorio. And I believe that they made me improve my jumping skills because they both changed my jumping technique, the style, everything.”
Although present at the top for a couple of years, the public’s eyes had always been more focused on the likes of Taylor, Claye and co. So does his new-found limelight create added pressure for Pichardo?
“Now I have to be careful. I can’t underestimate any competitor because they can all be as good as me or even better,” he admits. However, he adds: “I only focus on my own limits, though.
“Every time I compete I set my own goals. I believe that those goals that I propose to myself, are the ones to surpass whenever I jump. That’s success, right? To have a good result, every time I jump.”
Just like in the high jump, the men’s triple jump world record so far has stood the test of time – 20 years to be precise. However, never has the record looked more under threat from more than one athlete than this year. With it being on everyone’s mind, how much does Pichardo believe he can challenge Jonathan Edwards’ mark of 18.29m on his own?
“Maybe [I can challenge the record] not that much if I am alone,” admits Pichardo, because despite focussing on his own progression, he explains: “I personally believe that I do need someone to challenge me, because I am someone who’s motivated by the opponents. I like to compete.”
So what about that world record then? “Maybe I do break the record [without anyone pushing him], just because it’s THE day for it with everything on my side for it to happen. But I believe that having a rivalry it is definitely better.”
We’re certainly more than excited for the triple jump in Beijing. To find out how Pichardo is dealing with being a role-model and what he would be doing if he wasn’t a triple jumper, watch the full 12-minute interview below: