Jordan's hop, skip and jump into the record books
2017-07-01 12:29:42 -
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Jordan Hoang was selected to represent Ireland in the triple jump at the European Championships for athletics this year. But first he has to finish secondary school, writes Austin Anderson

Jordan Hoang wasn’t worried about the competition when he took off in the triple jump at the Junior Nationals for athletics in January 2016. He never is.

“I know no one is going to beat me,” he says. But Hoang isn’t being cocky or arrogant. He’s just stating facts.

When he took off on that first attempt, he wasn’t the junior record holder for Ireland. When his jump was complete, that statement was no longer true.

His three jumps propelled him 14.44 metres and into the record books with the farthest triple jump ever by any Irish person aged under 20.

But as soon as the pride in his accomplishment set in, fear crept in just as quickly.

On Hoang’s next jump, his landing was off and he felt it in his foot right away. He pushed it to the back of his mind, trying to ignore it. Besides, he had just broken a national record; the day was meant for celebration, not a simple bad landing.

Hoang went about his training as he normally would but the pain wouldn’t go away. He went in to the doctor to have an MRI. A bruised bone in his foot was revealed. He spent the next few months in a cast to keep his calves stretched. Competing would have to be put on hold for three to four months.

“I felt relief,” says Hoang. Not relief to be injured – he says he loves to compete – but rather relief to finally know what was wrong and start the road to recovery.

The time off also restored his itch to compete. “[It] makes you want to come out and compete again,” he says.

And compete again he did. He used that downtime to evaluate himself and set goals, re-energise his passion and focus on what mattered. 
His focus wasn’t geared toward beating opponents – he was focused on beating himself. He already held the Irish junior record, he smashed school records, but that alone wasn’t enough to get Hoang where he wanted to go. 

He needed a jump of 14.9 metres, not only once but twice, to qualify for the U-20 European Championships in Italy.

Almost exactly a year after setting that personal best, he did it again. Actually, he destroyed his previous record by more than half a meter - a 14.9m jump. He was halfway to qualifying for the Euros.

“I went in trying to jump my best,” says Hoang. “I was delighted to break my own record, especially by such a big margin. It was all good feelings.”

Hoang had a couple of chances to qualify again before the championships on 20-23 July. But by last month, nearly half a year had passed since that first qualifying jump he hadn’t been able to duplicate his performance. At the beginning of June he came within six centimetres – close, but not enough. Time was slipping away.

Soon the Leaving Certificate exams were upon him, but also another shot at qualifying, at a meet in Bedford, England. Hoang made the decision to put his studies and exams on hold and took the trip over the Irish Sea. His jump: 14.93 metres.

On 4 July, it became official. Hoang was selected for Ireland’s national team. Later this month, he will travel from his home city of Dublin, where his parents moved from Vietnam 20 years ago, to Grosseto, Italy to compete against the best young athletes Europe has to offer. 

A recent hamstring injury has put his ability to compete in question, but Hoang remains hopefull he will be able to recover in time to represent Ireland. 

But first, he has to finish his Leaving Cert, in which he hopes to secure the points required to study financial mathematics at UCD or DCU. Why maths? “I love numbers,” he says.

But before he dives into a career with numbers, he has much left to accomplish – starting, hopefully, in Italy.

“I’m going to compete as long as I can,” says Hoang. “Until the love runs out.”
TAGS : Jordan Hoang U20 Euro Championships Italy Ireland Triple Jump Tullamore Athletics
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