At just 22-years-old, Keturah Orji has been transformative for the women's triple jump in the United States. While her many accolades on the track are well-documented, SPIKES learns a few lesser-known facts about the star jumper.
Keturah Orji won six NCAA titles in the triple jump and one NCAA title in the long jump competing for the Georgia Bulldogs. She set an American record of 14.71m when she finished fourth at the 2016 Olympic Games, and claimed fourth and fifth-place finishes at the 2016 and 2018 IAAF World Indoor Championships, respectively.
She lives for the rivalry
At the USATF Outdoor Championships in June, one of the most highly anticipated events of the meet was the women's triple jump. While Orji had a stronghold over the American record for several years, her reign ended in May when Tori Franklin jumped 14.84m. When the two competitors met for the national championship, the event turned out to be one of the most exciting match-ups of the weekend. Orji emerged victoriously, and a rivalry was born.
"I like it because it brings out the best in you. That's when you jump the furthest," Orji says when describing the competition between herself and Franklin.
She also compares the duel to the rivalry between Will Claye and Christian Taylor in the men's triple jump. Claye is a two-time Olympic silver and Taylor a two-time Olympic gold medallist.
"I'm looking forward to more back and forth against each other, because I know a lot of people like the whole Will [Claye] and Christian Taylor duel in the men's triple jump and it'd be cool to have the same duel in the women's triple jump."
She started as a gymnast
Before breaking records on the track, Orji competed as a gymnast until eighth grade. Even though she stopped enjoying gymnastics, she credits her athletic origins in the sport with developing her power and strength. Her favourite events were vault and beam.
"I definitely think it helped me in ways that I don't even know, so I'm really thankful that I did it," she says.
She's part of the 'Beyhive'
Orji is a huge Beyoncé fan and her favourite album is B Day. The jumper's favourite songs by the megastar are "Upgrade U," "Formation," and "End of Time," but she doesn't listen to Beyoncé before a competition because she can't help but sing and dance to the music.
She and former Bulldog teammate, NCAA champion Kendell Williams, even went to see Beyoncé perform live at one of her concerts in Atlanta, Georgia.
She exceeded her own expectations
Now a college graduate, Orji looks back on her many accomplishments and calls the entire experience "unbelievable." She actually never believed she would make an Olympic team or break the American record as a sophomore.
"You go to college and you want to do great things, but to go and totally exceed the goals that I had was crazy," recalls Orji.
"I find it hard to fathom what I have accomplished, and I feel so thankful and blessed to have done that."
She'd tell her younger self...
When asked what she would tell a younger version of herself that is just starting her track career, Orji shares a message in confidence: "Not to underestimate myself and that I am as good as anyone else out there."
Words: Taylor Dutch