An impressive jump of 1.90m was enough to secure a silver medal for Jordan Lee at the National U23 Athletics Championships, which were held at the Morton Stadium in Santry last weekend.
Lee was competing against able bodied athletes at the prestigious event and once again he showed that he can mix it with anyone in the country.
His best attempt on the day was second only to that of Ciarán Connolly at the U23 grade, and it was also good enough for an eighth place finish in the senior event, which was won by David Cussen.
The talented Killarney man is now ranked second in the WPA World Rankings.
Speaking to the Killarney Advertiser, the Killarney Valley AC athlete said he was happy with his performance on the day.
“My goal heading into the event was to jump 1.90m, which I ultimately did,” he said.
“That’s something I was really pleased about. Over the past couple of months I’ve been working really diligently on the technical aspects of my approach and when you’re working on anything technical, especially in athletics and the high jump, it takes a while. It’s a process – it isn’t going to happen just like that.
“It’s frustrating at times but it all came together last weekend. I have lots of positives to take out of it. I feel like I’m in PB shape but I’m still working on a couple of technical things. Once I get them right, I feel like I can jump a PB in the near future.”
Lee, who won bronze at the World Para Athletics European Championships in 2018, is keen to prove himself in competitions like the National Championships as he strives to earn recognition as a top athlete, as opposed to “just” a top para athlete.
“It means an awful lot to me to win medals in able bodied competition. It’s definitely something that I’m constantly trying to get across to people.
“I don’t want to be recognised as just a great athlete for my disability. I want to be recognised as a great athlete overall. Full stop.
“I’m trying to follow in the footsteps of people like Jason Smyth, who is visually impaired and is the second fastest man in Irish history.
“It’s great that I’m finally starting to get that recognition that I’m a good overall athlete, as opposed to just being restricted to competing in para competition.”
Just like every other athlete in the country, Jordan is delighted to be back competing again after the lockdown and he says the reopening of his training facilities came at just the right time for him.
“The opening of the track has been a huge help. Actually being able to get proper contact on a track surface and to get that feeling of jumping over a bar has been a massive benefit. The plyos and all the training that I’ve done during lockdown have definitely helped me in the long run, but it was getting to the stage where I needed the feeling of jumping over a bar again.”
Looking ahead to the coming months and his ongoing preparations for next year’s European Championships and, of course, the Paralympics, Lee says much will depend on COVID-19.
“Myself and my coach Tomás (Griffin) are going to sit down in the coming days to see what the plan of attack will be. We’re aware that the Northern Irish Championships are on in mid-September and that is something that we might target, but we’ll have to suss out the logistics of that. We have to see if athletes from the Republic will be allowed to compete due to COVID regulations etc.
“Sunday could potentially have been my last competition of the year, which is a shame because I’ve only competed twice since the World Championships last November. It takes a couple of competitions to get into that good form. I definitely feel like I’m in PB shape. I just need to utilise my speed a bit more coming in towards the bar. Once I unlock that, I think I’ll jump a new personal best – hopefully two metres.”
This time 12 months from now the Paralympic Games will be held in Tokyo and though it’s still a long way away, Lee admits that the prospect of representing his country on the biggest stage is lingering at the back of his mind.
“An athlete’s ultimate ambition is to become an Olympian and that is a huge possibility over the next couple of months.
“I have an extra year to improve and develop. It’s exciting to say the least.
“I just need to keep the head down – I have the Europeans beforehand and I’d be hoping for gold there – but it does give me goosebumps every time I hear the Paralympics being mentioned.”
Meanwhile, Lee’s 16-year-old teammate Sam Griffin, son of coach Tomás, is the youngest athlete to make the national rankings following his sixth place finish in the National U23 Championships.
The long jumper came 15th in the senior competition with a jump of 5.62m.