Disappointed national triple jumper Stefan Tseng has vowed to make amends for his nightmarish outing at the recent 12th IAAF World Junior Championships – by pledging to break the 16-metre barrier and set his seventh national record at this October’s Commonwealth Youth Championships in Pune India.
In an interview with the Singapore Sports Fan just a day after his gruelling 28-hour flight back from Bydgosczc, Poland, where the world meet was held, the 17-year-old revealed his distress over failing to qualify for the triple jump final after faulting all three of his jumps.
After setting a new national record, his sixth, at the Asian Junior Championships in Jakarta a week before the World Juniors, Stefan had been touted as an outside chance for a medal at Bydgosczc.
Instead, when the time came to perform on the world stage, he could not even advance past the qualifying rounds.
“It is definitely the biggest disappointment of my jumping career,” said Stefan who had leapt 15.78m at Jakarta. “It was the first time I had ever faulted all my jumps in a competition.
“When I lost my balance and couldn’t complete my third jump, I didn’t know what to do, I didn’t know what to think. And then, when I realised that it was all over for me, I was in a total daze.”
Stefan did receive some comforting words from his coach, Dr Valeri Obidko. He said: “Coach told me that s*** like this can and does happen to everyone.
“Even the great pole vaulter Sergei Bubka recorded a “no measure” once at the Olympics.
“But I felt even worse the next day when I went back to watch the final. I wouldn’t have won a medal because the winner (Teddy Tamqho of France) jumped 17.33m and four others jumped more than 16m. But I could still have finished at least sixth or seventh.”
(Note: American Austin Davis was sixth with 15.78m while Spain’s Jose Alfonso Palomanes was seventh with 15.63m)
“As I sat there watching, I just kept thinking about my only chance to compete in the World Juniors was gone. I can’t take part in the next one in two years’ time because I will be overaged by then, and that just added to my frustration.”
However, the fact remains that Stefan was not 100 percent fit when the World Juniors came around.
Although he had been sent to Frankfurt, Germany, by the Singapore Athletics Association for a month-long training stint as part of his final preparations for the World Championships, Stefan was never able to shake off an ankle injury which he had picked up at the Asian Juniors.
“It was a sprain in my right ankle and that affected me because I use that ankle for my hop and step,” he said. “Because of the injury, I couldn’t do my jumps at training. Instead, I could only do light training to maintain my fitness and spent a lot of time seeking ultrasound treatment for my ankle.
“I felt that did affect me mentally and took away the momentum I had gained from the Asian Juniors coming into the World Juniors.”
In fact, Stefan only managed to resume full training just five days before the world meet. Even then, he was still experiencing a wincing pain in his ankle.
Still, the Singapore Sports School graduate did think he was going to be fine after his first jump during his event, even though it was a fault.
“I overstepped by one centimentre but I still managed to jump over 16m,” he recalled. “So when my second jump came, I started from further back so that I wouldn’t overstep again.
“But I did. Still, I told myself not to panic or get over-excited even though I had only one jump left.”
And then it happened. As Stefan made his hop during his third and final qualifying jump, he lost his balance and couldn’t complete his jump.
And with that, all his World Juniors dream came crashing down.
It’s been four days since that personal disaster and Stefan feels that he has more or less recovered from his bitter disappointment.
However, he is fiercely determined to make amends for his dismal showing. And he plans to do it at the Commonwealth Youth Championships in Pune, India, in October. How? By breaking the national record for the seventh time in his career and by crossing the 16-metre mark.
“It will be my way of saying sorry to the SAA because they did put in a lot of money to send me to Germany. I hope I can pay them back with a good result at the Commonwealth Youth Games, which will be my next and final major competition for the year,” said Stefan who will skip the upcoming Singapore Open so as to completely recover from his ankle injury.
“If there was one good thing that emerged from the World Juniors, it was that my first jump showed me that I can jump 16m. That will be my motivation and driving force in my preparations for the Commnwealth Youth Championships.”
We wish him well.
Yours in sport
Singapore Sports Fan