It has been a long road since Tori Bowie’s days of leaping over ditches in rural Mississippi. One of the breakout stars of the 2014 Diamond League, she tells SPIKES how she turned early potential as a long jumper into crazily good performances on the track.

“I’ve had a wonderful year so far,” says Bowie.

No kidding. The 23-year-old tops the 100m Diamond League rankings after victories in Monaco, Rome and New York. She also sits third in the 200m rankings, aided by a world leading winning time of 22.18 in Eugene in May.

Yet her meteoric rise to success has been born out of adversity. Bowie grew up in the small community of Sand Hill, Mississippi, in America’s deep South. As a toddler, Bowie and her sister were turned over to foster care by their mother, later being adopted by their paternal grandmother.

They were, she admits, “difficult times” growing up in a “really, really poor area”.

But sport provided an outlet. Bowie, a self-confessed tomboy, liked to hang out with the boys – “playing basketball, racing the guys and having competitions jumping over ditches.”

She excelled at shooting hoops and played for the state at high school. Then, in her sophomore year, she was introduced to athletics.

“I didn’t really have much choice,” says Bowie, whose basketball coach saw the conditioning value in the sport.

“I had no idea what track was. All I wanted to do was hang out with the boys and play basketball. At first I thought, ‘I don’t want to wear those tight shorts’,” she adds with a laugh.

She might not have liked the getup, but it didn’t prove a barrier to success. In her first year she landed the state high school title in long jump, retaining her crown the following year.

USA's Tori Bowie in action in the long jump (Getty Images)

Tori Bowie: Impressed in the long jump at junior level before focusing on sprinting

Success followed at college, winning the 2011 NCAA indoor and outdoor double in long jump while competing for the University of Southern Mississippi.

At the back end of 2012, Bowie turned pro after moving out west to San Diego to be coached by Craig Poole.

In her first professional year she leapt to a PB of 6.91m – which ranked her joint eighth in the world – and finished fourth at the 2013 US Championships – just 2cm off a podium finish.

But her performances, though distinguished, weren’t world beating.

“I jumped further than I had in my life,” she explains. “But I had to get used to all the travelling. It was also hard going from finishing first and second at every single track meet to struggling to finish in the top three.”

She and her agent, Kimblery Holland, decided to seek the expertise of leading sprint coach Lance Brauman to help improve her speed.

Bowie had flirted with the 100m in the past, with a personal best of 11.14 and posting a windy 11.04. She went to Florida for a two-week taster period with Brauman and was instantly smitten.

“Everyone [the athletes] loved their job and loved what they were doing,” she says. “They worked hard and that’s where I wanted to go.”

The switch to sprinting was made permanent and so the results followed.

An early season 100m in Gainesville saw her post an 11.10 PB. This was followed by those eye-catching victories in Rome (11.05), New York (11.07), and most recently in Monaco, where she ran a world leading personal best of 10.80.

Tori Bowie in action at the US Championships (Getty Images)

Versatile's her second name - Bowie is boss in the 100m, 200m and the long jump

Yet these performances were arguably surpassed by her 22.18 victory over 200m in Eugene.

“It shocked me because it was only the second time I had ever run 200m professionally,” she says of that run at the Prefontaine Classic.

“I fantasised about running the 200m so well. I have such a late turnover [the ability to maintain speed for longer] I think the 200m is my best event.”

Brauman has proved an effective coach. “He doesn’t take no for an answer and manages to push me to produce my best,” she explains.

“I’m now doing things I never thought I could do. In the weight room, in the past, I was never able to lift above 140 lbs [63 kg] and now I can squat 200 lbs [90 kg]. He just tells me to lift and not think too much about it.”

And Bowie is not yet done with the long jump. She leapt out to 6.82m in Eugene this year and plans to put a greater focus on the event in the future.

She has targeted next year’s World Championships in Beijing as a chance to announce herself to the world. “I’d like to think I could win a medal at the World Championships in more than one event,” she says. “I think I will achieve that.”

So what are Bowie's hopes for the remainder of what has already been a stellar season? “I hope it gets better,” she laughs. After her string of fine performances this year, there are few in the world who can stop that from happening.