Christabel Nettey is back on the podium.
On Thursday, the Surrey-raised athlete won gold in long jump at the Commonwealth Games in Australia, while the Surrey-born, Langley-raised Django Lovett was awarded a bronze medal in high jump.
Nettey took the gold medal after her 6.84-metre long jump. She finished ahead of Australia’s Brooke Stratton (6.77) and England’s Shara Proctor (6.75).
Christabel’s sister Sabrina was up early Thursday (April 12) watching her sister stand atop the podium.
“They started jumping at 2:30 a.m. this morning,” Sabrina said. “It’s been a long night.”
“I’m just thrilled for her, though. She’s been well-ranked in the world for a years few now, but it’s nice to see her earn something that she’s worked so hard for.”
This is Nettey’s first appearance on an international podium in three years. She previously won gold at the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto after a 6.90-metre jump. During the Summer Olympics in Rio during 2016, she finished 20th in qualifying.
Douglas Clement knows firsthand about Nettey’s career. Clement, an organizer of the Harry Jerome International Track Classic in Burnaby, has watched Nettey dominate the competition for years.
“She’s had really bad luck with injuries and having an unstable coaching situation, but it’s all come together now,” he said Thursday. “It’s a major breakthrough for her after several years of struggle.”
It hasn’t been an easy road for the Johnston Heights Secondary product. After her silver-medal finish at the Pan Am Games, Nettey’s longtime coach Dan Pfaff retired. That, along with back and legs issues, affected her performance.
Even leading up to her gold-medal victory in Australia, there were questions surrounding her health.
“She had back issues with pain down her leg after jumping 6.92 (metres) in a warmup meet in Brisbane, her best jump in four years.” Clement said.
“She looked amazing. Then all of the sudden she was in therapy for 10 days leading up to this. It’s really been a miracle that she’s been able to overcome that.”
Now that she’s once again one of the top threats in the sport, Nettey has her sights set on the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
“She had such a promising career when she jumped 6.99 (metres) back in 2015,” Clement said. “She looked like she was primed for the Olympics. Then, injuries and instability in her coaching affected that.”
“Now, she’s in a good position to try again.”
Lovett won a bronze medal in high jump after recording a personal best of 2.30 metres. That mark beat his personal best of 2.27 metres, but it wasn’t enough to topple gold-medal winner Brandon Starc’s 2.32 metres.
Jamaica’s Jamal Wilson also finished at 2.30, and only beat Lovett by virtue of fewer misses.
The 25-year-old looks like he’s on track for a promising career after training under former Canadian high-jumper Mike Mason. Although Mason was a decorated Canadian athlete, his prodigy Lovett looks primed for big things.
“With Django, it’s another miracle where everything comes together at the right time,” Clement said. “Training with Mason has definitely helped Lovett, and he’s now six centimetres ahead of Mason in competition.”
“It’s the younger guy overcoming his mentor over the years,” he said. “Mason is a very good jumper who is getting older, and suddenly the apprentice is taking over.”
This year’s Harry Jerome International Track Classic will be held at Swangard Stadium on June 26 and 27. Visit harryjerome.com for more details about the 35th-annual meet, held over two days for the first time.