by Shanieka Ricketts

I’ve always been driven, and I think that’s a good thing.

As a kid, I remember how seriously I’d take races, even if it was just against friends: I’d chuck myself across the line to make sure I finished first. I’d refuse to lose.

I was six when I started, my physical education teacher at primary school telling me I had to try out for athletics because I had unusually long legs and was faster than most guys and girls in my class.

I loved it from the start. When I was 12, I chose to go to a school that was known for track and field: Vere Technical. That’s one of the powerhouse high schools: we had Merlene Ottey, Veronica Campbell-Brown, Aileen Bailey and many more great athletes.

On the track I used to do everything from 100m to 5000m, but I was mostly a high jumper until, in my third year of high school, I started doing triple jump to score points at Champs. Kimberley Williams introduced me to it, and for a long while I couldn’t understand how to hop, step and jump at the same time. But once I got the hang of it I won a Carifta Games title. I’ve never looked back.

At 18 I left home to study at San Diego State University and that was difficult. I knew no one, left my family and friends, and it took a while to adjust. I had injury problems, too. Anytime I tried to high jump I'd get bad patella tendonitis so eventually I had to focus on triple jump.

I missed a lot about Jamaica – the food, the climate – so as soon as I graduated I was like, I’m out of here.

Shanieka Ricketts ()

Back in Jamaica, I started being coached by my boyfriend, Kerry-Lee Ricketts, who I’d dated since 2010. We got married in June 2016, and people often wonder how it works, being coached by your husband.

Sometimes it’s hard to draw a line between the coach-athlete and husband-wife relationship, but we’re learning.

It helps that we’re getting results. During the year, I’d been fouling a lot of 15-metre jumps so I knew I had that in me, but to see a performance like that come to life was a whole different story. At the Diamond League final in Zurich, I jumped 14.93m and that night, I cried my eyes out with happiness.

But things change fast in this sport. A few months later I felt very different when I heard the triple jump will not be a core discipline in the Diamond League season for 2020. Growing up, it was everyone’s dream to participate in the Diamond League so I really hope something can be done about this, but if not I hope it becomes part of the main programme again from 2021. 

This is how we earn a living, and it’s hard to convince a shoe company you’re worth something if you’re not able to advertise a brand on one of the sport’s biggest stages. I know it’s hard for broadcasters, but often when I finish competing my friends will tell me they didn’t see my competition at all – just a quick recap of the best three jumps.

The beauty of our sport is that some fans love the triple jump, some love the discus – you get to choose what you like. It wasn't as if the athletes weren’t performing. The men have jumped 18 metres a lot in recent years while on the women’s side, we had Yulimar Rojas jumping 15.41m in September, the second best in history. When I saw that I thought: this is great for the triple jump. 

Shanieka Ricketts ()

I thought it could be saved because we were performing at such a high level, but now we don’t know what can be done. I was glad that Christian Taylor formed The Athletics Association because it's crucial for us to have a voice in the decisions that affect us.

Either way, my job won’t change in 2020: I need to jump as far as I possibly can.

This was the best season of my life. I’ve been a student of the sport for many years, learning so many lessons, so to finally deliver on the world stage has been a blessing. I had been to two World Championships before – 11th in Beijing, eighth in London – so to get a silver medal in Doha was indescribable.

But I can get much better.

I’m naturally very competitive and like I said, that’s a good thing. It keeps me on my A-game. My husband never needs to offer any motivation because he knows how badly I already want it.

I can definitely get stronger. My last phase is still a challenge, and I know I can get more out of it.

My goal next year is to jump the world record, which is 15.50m. If I can do that, I can win Olympic gold. I think it's in me.

 Photography: Dan Vernon & Getty Images