Imperfect record-breaking Heptathlon was as sweet as it was bitter for Texas A&M’s Tyra Gittens

By May 20, 2021

Strange as it may sound, Tyra Gittens is both happy and disappointed with her record-breaking performance in the heptathlon at the SEC Championships at Bryan College Station in Texas last weekend.

The 22-year-old Trinidadian who attends Texas A&M University scored a personal best 6418 points to win the two-day event. Her score which was just two points off the Olympic qualifying standard of 6420 points is also a championship-leading effort as well as a meet and facility record. 

“I am proud of where I am. I am proud of my accomplishments. I hope the world sees that I have so much potential and I have so much more room to grow. This is just the beginning,” she said.

Along the way, Gittens achieved several personal milestones, including a massive personal lifetime best in the long jump of 6.96, which qualifies her for the Olympics this summer and a personal best and a national record 1.95m for the high jump and a centimetre shy of the Olympic standard.

It was also the first time in history that a woman had jumped 1.95m in the high jump and beyond 6.95m in the long jump in the same heptathlon. Gittens now holds national records for the high jump outdoors and indoors, the long jump outdoors and indoors, the pentathlon and the heptathlon.

However, she wasn’t satisfied and revealed her true ambitions, believing she is capable of so much more.

“I don’t like to talk about my goals publicly because then people take it as ‘Oh, she’s trying to talk smack’ but I want people to hold me accountable when I say this. I want to be the ultimate heptathlete and that means breaking Jackie Joyner’s record and that’s what I’m going for.

 “This is my first time saying that publicly but I have never been at a point in my life when I’ve felt so confident saying that, and after this weekend, even though my heptathlon wasn’t what I wanted, my mentality and how I pushed through one of the hardest weekends but one of the best weekends of my life, I am ready and I know, I really think I can get this world record.”

 It is that lofty goal and it is the accompanying mentality that has her experiencing mixed feelings about her record-breaking weekend. Joyner-Kersee’s heptathlon record, which has stood since 1988, is 7291 points and it explains why Gittens wasn’t so happy with her performance last weekend because she understands that if she is to break that record, she has to be better at all her disciplines, not just two or three.

 “The long jump and the high jump were the highlights of my meet. I rarely surprise myself but I definitely surprised myself in the long jump,” she the Texas A&M senior said.

 “The high jump wasn’t necessarily a surprise. I knew this is where I wanted to be around this time. In the long jump, I didn’t expect to reach 6.90 so soon. I know I could do it, I knew I could be up there but I was thinking later on in my career, like years later.”

However, as good as she was in the long and high jumps, Gitten concedes that her performance in several other disciplines did not meet her expectations and it was a bitter pill to swallow.

 “The shot put definitely hurt me, just because of how inconsistent it was. It was embarrassing for me to come off such a high in the high jump, not to be able to gather myself correctly for the shot put. I thought I did but I still had a lot of adrenalin and excitement from the high jump and it never allowed me to focus on the shot put and it just didn’t click,” she said of her 658-point 11.96m throw that was well short of her 13.58m throw that earned her 807 points in a heptathlon on May 8.

 She was equally devastated by how poor she was in the 800m that she completed in 2:31.97 and which she said came as a shock.

 “The 800 was a surprise. I did not expect to run that slow. I started the race and normally I have someone yelling my 100m splits but this time there were two events going on so my coach wasn’t able to so he put some people to say the times. I didn’t hear them and so I was kind of running blindly and it wasn’t until the last 150 when I saw the finish-line time board and I saw that I was way behind my pace,” she said.

“I honestly started tearing up running down the straightaway because I knew I didn’t set myself up in the other events like the shot put and the hurdles, even though my long jump and high jump were great, the Hep was not very consistent for me.” 

Such is the mentality of the effervescent Trinidadian that she has chosen to focus on the silver lining rather than dwell on the dark clouds.

 “That being said, everything happens for a reason. I was very impressed with myself that my hep was a pretty bad one. The things that saved me, the high jump, my 200 and long jump because everything else was not where I wanted to be at all,” she confessed, “the hurdles, shot put, javelin even though it was PB in the Hep for me, I see myself a little farther along than 40 metres. The 800 definitely broke my heart.”

She was devastated to come so close to the Olympic standard. 

“Being only two points away from the standard is definitely tough to swallow because it was just two points and I knew what I needed to do but at the end of the day, it is what it is. It happened. I came out with an Olympic standard and literally kissing the other standards,” she said. 

“I am on pace. I knew my open events would come before my Hep because it is a lot harder to put together than get one jump. I am not worried. I am not stressing. I am actually above my pace for what I want to do and the next Hep is going to be bigger and better because I am going to come in ready to be more consistent and ready to stay focused. 

“I want to shine. I want to be the ultimate heptathlete, meaning I want to be consistently good, amazing in some (events) and consistently good in others. I would love to be a Jackie Joyner and be amazing at all seven but that’s not my reality, so you have to take advantage of what you’re really good at and then you have to work and stay focused on what you’re not so gifted in.”

 Gittens also finished second in the individual high jump, clearing 1.89m. She was also fourth in the long jump with a 6.56m leap. For her efforts, she was named United States Track & Field Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) National Athlete of the Week.

 

Leighton Levy

Leighton Levy is a journalist with 28 years’ experience covering crime, entertainment, and sports. He joined the staff at SportsMax.TV as a content editor two years ago and is enjoying the experience of developing sports content and new ideas. At SportsMax.tv he is pursuing his true passion - sports.

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