After injury killed the momentum of a dream 2012 season, Janay DeLoach is finally back. The American explains why doing the long jump – hurdles double will keep her out of more trouble.

It’s not uncommon for sprinters to be decent long jumpers and vice versa. But it's rare for an athlete (who isn’t a multi-eventer) to double up in the long jump and sprint hurdles. Janay DeLoach is the rare exception. In the past she has won Olympic bronze and world indoor silver in the long jump, and finished fifth in 60m hurdles final at the 2014 world indoors.

“I always wanted to be a multi and it just never panned out for me,” admits DeLoach when SPIKES asks about her unusual combination of events. However, she’s far from a wannabe multi eventer trying to keep a dream alive: “I’ve always done both the hurdles and long jump indoors just for timing. As far as foot placement, body position and stuff, it really goes well together.

“Usually when I’m running well in the hurdles, I’m jumping well, too.” A glance at the 2016 rankings supports that: DeLoach has kicked off her indoor season with a bang and is ranked second in the world in each event.

“I try to stick with doing both, so I’m a well-rounded athlete and can kind of kinaesthetically feel where I am and where I need to be as far as take-offs go both over the hurdle and on the board.”

Janay DeLoach competes in the 60m hurdles at the 2014 IAAF World Indoor Championships ()

DeLoach's 60m hurdles PB 7.82 ranks her in the all-time top 20

On that logic, doubling is a no brainer. So why aren’t more hurdlers jumping (David Oliver admits he's a terrible long jumper), or more jumpers hurdling? “I don’t have a clue,” DeLoach says, “because hurdles are so fun! I don’t understand why someone wouldn’t want to run over obstacles down a straight.”

DeLoach has had her share of obstacles lately, and not just on the track. The 30-year-old has come through a difficult couple of years: after long jumping her way to world indoor silver in Istanbul and Olympic bronze in London in 2012 her form dropped. The following two years she struggled with an ankle injury she assumed was just “a bad sprain”. She went “the whole year kind of trying to deal with the pain”, only eventually finding out “that it was broken all that time”.

In September 2014 she underwent surgery and was non-weight-bearing for the next three months. Returning to training proved more difficult than ever before, almost impossible. At that moment she realised that if she wanted to get back to her previous long jump form, she would have to change her take-off leg.

“I had just lost so much muscle, it looked like I just wasn’t feeding my leg. It was so dinky,” she recalls. “It took me a while, I think it wasn’t until February of last year that I was able to even start jogging. And by the time I got back I had such a muscle imbalance I ended up tearing my right quad.”

It was a period marked by physical pain. The pyschological impact of having to painstakingly rebuild her technique while dealing with rehab was, she says, “probably one of the most difficult mentally challenging things I had to endure. It was just one thing after the other after the other.” 

Janay DeLoach competes in the long jump at London 2012 ()

A PB 7.03m at the Olympic Trials booked DeLoach's ticket to London 2012, where she won bronze with 6.89m

However, “miraculously” as she puts it, DeLoach managed to get fit just in time for last year's US Outdoor Championships. With her new take-off leg she jumped 6.95m to qualify for the world championships team. In Beijing she finished eighth with 6.67m.

“It was still a rough year, very inconsistent,” she says.“But with my right leg I think I have just as much potential. I just have to figure it out right now.”

Recent results suggest things are moving in the right direction. A fortnight ago she jumped 6.75m in the long jump in Colorado Springs, and the next day ran 7.94 in the hurdles. As she builds towards the Portland World Indoor Championships, she’ll be looking to bring both those marks closer together.

“I’m gonna do both [events] for sure,” she says, determination bristling in her voice. “For as long as I can remember I’ve been doing both long jump and hurdles. It hasn’t stopped me before, so I don’t see why I should now.

“And the only time I only did just one event was when I broke my ankle and couldn’t long jump at the time, so back to two events again indoors.”