Long jumper Low aims to finish on a high at Rio 2016

The German world champion will be in action this week at the IPC Athletics Grand Prix in Arizona, USA as she continues her preparations for September’s Paralympics. 11 May 2016
Woman in running clothes

Vanessa Low at the IPC Athletics Grand Prix

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“I was really done after London, I was disappointed and I felt like there was nothing to work to because I felt like I couldn’t win.”

There was one big obstacle stopping Vanessa Low from proving she was one of the world's best para-athletes.


The German flopped at the London 2012 Paralympic Games - finishing sixth in the long jump T42 and contemplating retirement.

Fast forward three years to the IPC Athletics World Championships in Doha, Qatar, as Low became world champion, smashing the world record in the process with a winning leap of 4.79m.

So what happened? For Low, it was all about mental strength.

“I was really done after London, I was disappointed and I felt like there was nothing to work to because I felt like I couldn’t win,” she admitted.

“I was so caught up in everyone’s opinions and what was happening around me, what my competitors were doing.

“Now I really don’t care, I focus on myself and what I’m doing right now and I think that also makes me a lot happier.”

Low believes that shift in focus has been vital to her success – and she is determined to maintain that way of thinking this year too, starting with this week’s IPC Athletics Grand Prix in Arizona, USA (13-14 May) - her first long jump competition of the season.

“I work on it every day, and I try to be in the moment every day,” she said.

“Of course there are moments when you have to think about the future, but in the main part I am thinking about what I am doing right now, and I think that helps a lot in competitions.

“You don’t think about what your competitors have done, you don’t think about what happened yesterday or what happens tomorrow. You just focus on the here and now.”

That change in perspective should certainly help Low when it comes to dealing with her rivals.

This time last year the German was competing in Arizona when she found out that Italy’s 2013 world champion Martina Caironi had equalled what was then Low’s long jump world record at a competition in Barcelona, Spain, jumping 4.60m. The news came as an unwelcome distraction.

“Honestly, it was hard to run the 100m in the evening knowing [what Caironi achieved] - and it was hard being in the moment and forgetting what happened.

“I really hope this year I’ll be able to have a little bit more fun, just enjoy it. I think I’m even stronger now, and confident in my personality and as an athlete.”

Low’s confidence in her own abilities comes at the right time - for a number of reasons, not least the prospect of her second Paralympic Games this September in Rio.

The 25-year-old was recently denied an extension to the visa that has enabled her to live and train in the United States for the last three years. She plans to return to Germany within a month and finish her preparations for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games there.

Her current coach Roderick Green will keep in regular contact; former Olympic decathlete Siegfried Stark will work with Low in Germany. It is a set up that the Ratzeburg-born Para athlete is taking in her stride.

“I feel like I don’t need a babysitter every day anymore, I know what I am doing wrong and right, and I have a really, really good coach in the home town of my parents,” said Low.

While the world title has given Low a new confidence, as well as confirmation that she is on the right track to Rio 2016, she also knows a lot has changed since London 2012 – for the better.

“Now with almost eight years training behind me, I feel like I’m an athlete that can produce what I have been training for – where as in London I wasn’t,” she said.

“I’m not just a better athlete, I’m a better person – I’m more confident and I’m more secure in what I’m doing and how I’m doing it.”

Confident and secure. The last four years have seen Vanessa Low come a long way.