“Now my mindset is different, my body feels different, I feel like this is going to be a different ballgame."
With exactly one year to go before the 2019 World Para Athletics World Championships, which start on 7 November next year, US track and field star Isaac Jean-Paul is already focused on gold.
The question is – in which event?
The 25-year-old won the men’s high jump T13 on his major championship debut in London, Great Britain, last year breaking the world record three times in the process.
With no high jump T13 in the Dubai 2019 and Tokyo 2020 Paralympic programme, Jean-Paul’s hopes rest in the long jump.
But he is also considering the 100m sprint. With a personal best of 11 seconds flat set in 2016 – without any training – there’s no denying Jean-Paul has the potential to cause a stir on the track.
Inspired by the best
The event has been dominated by Irishman Jason Smyth for over a decade; this year the 31-year-old notched up his 19th major gold medal at the Berlin 2018 European Championships.
But Jean-Paul relishes the prospect of challenging Smyth, as well as the likes of sub-11 second sprinters and major medallists Chad Perris and Mateusz Michalski.
“When I first got in to Paralympic track and field, (US T13 Para athlete) Markeith Price told me about the different sprinters and he mentioned Jason Smyth. He told me his time and I was like, that’s great,” said Jean-Paul.
“Now I’ve heard about Jason Smyth again and now I’m watching film of him and seeing how he and everyone else in the field runs, so it should be exciting. I like competition, that’s what pushes me to work harder.
“I haven’t run the 100m in so many years, but I feel I can make an impact in that. And if I can do that then I can definitely make an impact in the long jump, because that’s about speed too. I already have the power; I just need to put everything together at the right time.”
Jumping into the scene
Jean-Paul arrived in London last year as a relative unknown; he only began competing in Para sport a few months before the Championships. But he left with high jump gold as well as long jump T13 silver. The long jump world title went to Cuba’s world record holder Luis Felipe Gutierrez.
“I felt he was the favourite to win, because people didn’t see me jump yet - and that’s completely understandable, but I felt like I could have won London 2017,” added Jean-Paul.
“But not being properly prepared, you’ve got to take what you have. He deserved that win; I know next time around he’s going to have some competition.”
New season, new mindset
Now with another year’s training and experience under his belt, Jean-Paul feels like a different athlete.
“The year gearing up to London 2017 I wasn’t prepared, I was able to jump okay, but that was off adrenaline and just knowing enough to know how to jump.
“Now my mindset is different, my body feels different, I feel like this is going to be a different ballgame. I’m excited for what’s to come in 2019 and 2020. Something great might happen.”
Still, 12 months out from Dubai 2019, Jean-Paul insists his status as a reigning world champion doesn’t present any added pressure.
“I do absolutely picture myself winning again because that’s just a great feeling to have; that right there motivates me,” he explained.
“But I don’t feel any pressure at all. I just want my mind and body to be ready. If that’s ready, it’s going to be fun.”
The World Para Athletics World Championships take place in Dubai, UAE, from 7 – 15 November 2019.