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Jazmin Sawyers enlisted a sports psychologist to deal with empty stands at Tokyo 2020 but had the opposite problem en route to Sunday’s Commonwealth Games women’s long jump final.
Stoke’s Sawyers thrives off the crowd’s energy so took extra measures before recording her second successive eighth-place finish at the Olympics amid the pandemic, but almost let adrenaline get the better of her at Birmingham’s bouncing Alexander Stadium.
Despite pre-warning herself of the dangers of getting carried away, Sawyers fouled first up before steadying the ship with her second attempt and delivering a fantastic final leap of 6.80m to finish third in the second qualifying group, securing a rare automatic spot.
The 28-year-old said: “I’ve been trying to keep myself calm unsuccessfully, I’ve been all over the place with excitement but I’m just glad I put it down.
“As athletes, we’ve all been waiting to get back into a stadium full of people who want to see us succeed and that’s what we got today.
“I’d been saying to myself all week for the first round ‘move back, move back because you know the crowd is going to take you to a foul’.
“I did move back but apparently I didn’t move back enough because the crowd was crazy and it was still a big no jump.
“I had to come really far back and pace myself a little bit to make sure I got a jump in. I got one in at 6.53 which I think would’ve been safe but I wanted to jump again. I wanted to really put on a performance for the amazing crowd.
“In the third round, I just let loose and really went for it and was rewarded with a big Q which I don’t think I’ve ever had before.
“I normally scrape through by the skin of my teeth, so that’s very exciting for me to know that’s the kind of shape I’m in and when I’ve got three more jumps, who knows what I could produce.”
This summer, Team England, supported by funding raised by National Lottery players, comprises of over 400 athletes, all vying for medal success.
Sawyers is no stranger to barmy British atmospheres having won Commonwealth silver at Glasgow 2014 and after boasting about what Birmingham would bring, has not been left disappointed.
She explained: “I was telling people in Eugene at the world champs ‘this is nothing, wait until you come to Birmingham and we will show you what a crowd should be like’ and they haven’t disappointed.
“Since the morning session of day one, it has been electric. Watching on TV, you knew this was a special crowd.
“We feel and appreciate the support, every single flag we see flying and it means so much to have a crowd this loud behind us.”
“It is a proper home Games, I grew up an hour away in Stoke-on-Trent and I know a lot of people have come from there to see me today which is amazing.”
Sawyers competed on singing TV show The Voice in 2017 before recording the official England anthem for the Gold Coast.
Now at her third Games, she has plenty of miles on the clock but as well as using her past experience to her advantage is keen to channel the exuberance of youth into what will hopefully be a podium worthy performance.
She said: “I feel like I’ve been around for a while now. A lot of athletes in the team are quite a lot younger than me even though I still feel very young.
“I’d like to think the experience serves me well but actually sometimes I’ve got to remember what it was like to come into this fresh, new and without so many thoughts in my head and just go and compete and enjoy myself.
“You’ve got to be in it to win it. I’ll be gunning for gold as will 11 other women that want it too but I’m going to put up a fight and I know the crowd will be pushing me down the runway like they were today.”
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