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Jazmin Sawyers turns to fashion and music to overcome Paris Olympics heartbreak

Injuries can often be a curious paradox. Now, reflecting on the ruptured Achilles that has cruelly denied her a chance to compete at this summer’s Paris Olympics, Jazmin Sawyers realises that more than most.

There was nothing abnormal about her start to training camp in Turkey or her warm-up that particular morning in mid-April but, sometimes, the most serious injuries can be born out of the most innocuous of circumstances.

And yet, perhaps it is the freakish way in which Sawyers sustained the rupture – merely jumping over a hurdle – that allows her to speak so candidly about the injury just five weeks after undergoing surgery that will likely see her sidelined for 12-14 months.

“The way it happened is one of the things that has helped me deal with the injury,” she tells The Independent. “It was a normal draining day, I was doing what I’ve done hundreds if not thousands of times before and there were no signs. I was doing nothing unusual, nobody missed anything.

Jazmin Sawyers ruptured her Achilles in training camp
Jazmin Sawyers ruptured her Achilles in training camp (Getty Images)

“At first I thought I’d clipped the hurdle but my Achilles had just snapped – plain and simple. Having spoken to other people who’ve had the same injury, it’s one of those that can just come out of nowhere. But that initial feeling that I wouldn’t be going to the Olympics – that the work I’d done in the lead-up to Paris was for nothing – was heartbreaking.”

Sawyers had every right to be heartbroken. Having finished eighth at her first two Olympic Games – in Rio and Tokyo – the British long jumper enjoyed her breakthrough moment at last summer’s European Indoor Championship when she claimed gold with a personal-best leap of seven metres.

Missing out on her third Olympic appearance in Paris is a tough pill to swallow, but the 30-year-old has maintained a remarkable sense of perspective and is determined to not let the injury dent her ambitions of scaling the sport’s summit.

“Because it’s such a major injury, I think I found it easier to accept,” she insists. “Within 24 hours, I was looking ahead going, ‘Okay, when can I be back by?’ The upset over the Olympics still lingers in the background, but I’m much more focused on how can recover and return even better at the World Championships next year.

“People don’t believe me, a lot of my teammates come up and ask: ‘How are you? Are you okay?’ And I’m like, ‘I’m doing great’ and it’s true. I understand it seems counterintuitive to suggest, I might be doing great, but I am.

Sawyers won gold at last year’s European Indoor Championship
Sawyers won gold at last year’s European Indoor Championship (Getty Images)

“This has happened. There’s nothing I can do about it and I feel like that truth settled on me so quickly. I’m a positive person but I also know how serious these injuries can be for jumpers. I’m so determined to ensure that this setback doesn’t define me and isn’t a career-ending moment.”

Part of what helps Sawyers retain that perspective in the wake of such a crushing injury is that she’s never let her jumping define her. Yes, she’s an athlete. But she’s also a law graduate, a singer and an amateur dressmaker in her spare time.

While rehab already has back at Loughborough, aided by her former team-mates who drive her to and fro, Sawyers is hoping her extended summer break can afford more time to tap into the things she enjoys outside of her chosen profession.

“I’ve always tried to be an athlete that advocates for having a whole full life outside of your sport largely because something like this can happen that can take that away from you,” she explains.

“I’m hoping to make some more outfits, maybe release some music and try to perform a little bit. Just really lean into those sides of me that don’t get the attention when athletics is at the forefront because I am all of those things rather than just an athlete.”

The Brit will be cheering on her team-mates from the sidelines this summer
The Brit will be cheering on her team-mates from the sidelines this summer (Getty Images for European Athlet)

Her latest venture this summer could be a foray into broadcasting after dipping her toe into it at last year’s World Championships. Another long-held dream of hers, Sawyers has already begun discussions about possible media opportunities for the Paris Games and hopes the achievements of her peers can keep her motivated during her lengthy comeback.

“It’s a dream separate from the dream of being on the track and winning a medal,” she says. “Like I said, I’m an athlete over here, but all these other things. One of those dreams is being able to help broadcast and Olympic Games.

“I think there will be moments where it’ll be hard and I will wish that I was down there on the track but it will be my friends that I get to watch. I see how hard these people work, not only for their own dreams but supporting me and everything that I do so it will be nice to show them how much they mean to me.

“And I know that I’ll be back down on that track the following year. This summer may be a little interlude but I’ve still got that fire in my belly and watching them compete will only stoke the flames that bit more.”

Jazmin Sawyers spoke in her ambassadorial role for American Pistachio Growers.

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