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“I’ve known about Brittney since she was in college playing basketball, before she started jumping,” Joyner-Kersee said. “When I go to the big meets now, I’m always looking to see who’s going to be our next big jumper. You study different athletes, and from afar, I admired what she and her coach were doing.”

One of Reese’s proudest accomplishments was topping Joyner-Kersee’s world indoor record at the 2012 World Indoor Championships in March. Reese jumped 23-8 3/4, the longest indoor jump since Joyner-Kersee jumped 23-4 3/4 18 years ago.

“I think the world of her as an athlete and as a person,” Joyner-Kersee said. “She’s always been a tough competitor, but she’s really blossomed. She’s learned how to put winning jumps together when it really counts, and she’s not letting outside pressures get to her. I reminded her, ‘You do this because you love doing this. People are going to expect great things from you, but they can’t expect any more than what you want for yourself.’”

Improving with experience

Joining Joyner-Kersee in praise for Reese’s development is her coach, Joe Walker, who has worked with Reese for the past six years.

“When we recruited her out of high school, we thought she had a lot of talent, but after about five or six months, I realized that I had more than just good talent. I had someone really special,” Walker said. “Athletically, she’s a fierce competitor. As a person, she’s really caring and humble, easy to get along with. You don’t always see that in the same person — you usually get one or the other. She is a rare blend of great humility and great fierceness.”

Walker says they have a great relationship and have talked about the pressures Reese will face at her second Olympics, where she will be expected to win gold.

“She was a novice and a rookie at her first Olympics, so her experience should stand her well when she goes into this Olympics,” Walker said,

“But one of the things everybody forgets is it’s just another championship. It’s like the Super Bowl. What if you only talked about the 2008 and 2012 Super Bowls, what about the ones in between?

“The world championship is really the same meet as the Olympics — we’re just going to call it the Olympics this year. She’s won two outdoor and two indoor world championships, so she’s been on this stage before, it’s not something that will be radically new to her.”

Pursuing a medal

Reese’s jump of 23-5 1/2 at the Olympic trials was her personal best, but Reese couldn’t deny she’s eyeing the world record of 24-7, held by Galina Chistyakova of the former Soviet Union, who set the mark back in 1988. But, Reese maintains, earning a medal would be reward enough.

“In 2008, I was devastated to finish fifth,” Reese said. “To get a medal this time would mean a lot to me. It honestly doesn’t matter what color it is, I just want to get on the podium. I’ve been representing my country for a long time, since 2007, and there’s nothing like it. When you stand on the podium and see your flag, the American flag being raised, its like an awe moment. You want to bust out in tears because you’re so excited.”

Reese says she’ll do her best to contain her excitement, and keep a dry eye, when she walks into Olympic Stadium at Olympic Park in London, where the women’s long jump will be held Aug. 7-8.

“I’m doing a lot of sprinting and endurance to try and stay in shape,” Reese said. “It’s six jumps, and you don’t know what place you’re going to fall in the order, so basically I need to keep doing distance and speed work, jumps, and stay in the weight room to try and stay strong.”

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