Mount Olive native hopes to make US Olympic track & field team
The Olympic Games will begin in Tokyo next month following a yearlong delay because of COVID-19.
Keturah Orji was just three centimeters shy of an Olympic medal in the triple jump at the 2016 games in Rio. Finishing in fourth place, it was the best finish by an American woman in the history of the event.
“This year I feel like I'm the favorite and I'm expected to medal so there's a lot more pressure on it,” she says.
There is more pressure and less preparation heading into this month’s Olympic trials due to the pandemic shutdowns.
“Trying to stay as in shape as I could, despite the fact that there were no meets to go to and any place to train and get good training, especially for my event,” Orji says.
Now at the Olympic training facility in Chula Vista, California, the 25-year-old Mount Olive native reclaimed the American triple jump record in April.
“After I broke the American record, I went to a couple of meets overseas in Europe and they didn’t go as well as I wanted to. So it’s great to be back in California and work with my coach and get everything back together for the trials. I feel like everything is coming together at the perfect time,” she says.
Originally a gymnast, Orji first switched to track and field when she was at Mount Olive High School.
“It’s really where I discovered the sport that’s now my career. I formed great relationships with my coaches. They still follow my track meets,” she says.
Orji graduated from Mount Olive High School in 2014 and went on to become an eight-time NCAA track and field champion at the University of Georgia. As she now tried to make her second Olympic team, she is also trying to make history.
“It would just mean so much, especially for the women's triple jump, because we have never had an Olympic medalist in this event. So just trying to create a path and really just set out a road for future women that want to do this event and hope to be successful in it too,” she says.
The Olympic Trials begin June 18.