Germany’s reigning Paralympic and world long jump champion Vanessa Low has ruled out defending her title at July’s World Para Athletics Championships in London, Great Britain.
Low, who competes in the T42 class, suffered a back injury last June but was determined to make it to the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.
The 26-year-old went on to win her first Paralympic title in Brazil, leaping a phenomenal 4.93m as she added 14cm on to her own world record.
“In the lead up to Rio I knew I had to get through the injuries,” explained Low, who contemplated retirement after a disappointing performance at London 2012, when she finished out of the medals.
“I knew when I walked out in Rio I wasn’t nervous at all – I was so calm, I’d done the work. I had the injury, but I didn’t feel like there was anything that could happen that would stop me from performing well.”
But Low’s efforts meant she was unable to give her back sufficient time to heal – and a decision therefore had to be made this year: keep training through to the World Championships and in all likelihood retire from Para athletics after the summer, or commit to rehabilitation with her eye on the long-term plan of Tokyo 2020.
Low explained: “I was in pain for months and months just to get through training so I think that was also part of the reason I thought about retiring because every day I had pain in my back. I never had time to take rest.
“So I took some time off sport and travelled a bit to see if I missed (sport) or not, and whether I was willing to put in the rehab work to make it work for another three and a half years.”
It was a tough decision for Low to make - as the reigning Paralympic, world and European champion and the world record holder, what else did she want to achieve?
“I think that was the biggest challenge for me to decide if I wanted to continue because I had the same thoughts for a little bit, plus knowing that I would go from a world record holder and Paralympic champion to rehab work and learning certain stuff again - it was quite a hard decision.
“I still love the sport, that’s why I decided to work on the rehab, focus on Tokyo and take this year off competition.”
After the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, Low, who had been based in the United States, moved to Australia to live with her boyfriend, the 100m T42 Paralympic and world champion Scott Reardon.
The German track star, who also won Paralympic 100m T42 silver last year, now trains under the guidance of renowned coach Iryna Dvoskina, alongside the likes of Reardon and visually impaired sprinter Chad Perris.
“I have to cure my injury and Iryna is a great person to work with,” added Low, who plans to go to London as a spectator - a chance to watch Reardon race as well as her own rivals compete.
“This is the first year since 2009 I haven’t competed. Currently training for no particular competiton ahead is a bit weird as well, but now I finally have time to work on things I didn’t have time to before.”
As for Low’s ambitions, she remains focused on jumping further than ever before – as well as perfecting her 100m race.
She explained: “I really have this number in my head that I can jump five metres. I’ve done it so many times in training and I feel like this is something I still really want to do.
“For the 100m I feel like the time is amazing but I now feel like I don’t just want to run fast but I also want to perfect what I’m doing.
“I still feel like there are so many things to work on. Now having so much time to work on certain things is amazing because I know it will pay off.”
The London 2017 World Para Athletics Championships will take place between 14-23 July. To buy tickets, please click here.