Reigning world long-jump champion Malaika Mihambo revealed on Sunday that she plans to move to the U.S. to be trained by athletics legends Carl Lewis and Leroy Burrell.
“I want to develop as an athlete and as a person,” Mihambo told German daily Bild .
“I have the feeling that now is the right time for such a big step. Carl Lewis and Leroy Burrell, who will be my sprint coach, were among the best in the world for years. I can learn a lot from them, that’s irreplaceable.”
German Mihambo won world gold in Doha in October with a personal best leap of 7.30m and was voted her country’s athlete of the year in 2019. Only former East German athletics legend Heike Drechsler, who managed 7.48m in 1988, has jumped further for Germany.
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Having got to know Lewis and Burell in online video calls, 26-year-old Mihambo plans to quit Germany in August - if travel restrictions due to the coronavirus allows - for the States. She wants to move to Houston, Texas, to be coached by Lewis, 58, a nine-time Olympic champion in long jump and sprints, and Burrell, 53, a former Olympic and world 100m relay champion.
Lewis wrote himself into Olympics folklore with four gold medals, in the 100m, 200m, 4x100m and long jump, at the 1984 Los Angeles Games. Mihambo says Lewis has told her he is convinced of her potential. “When the best long jumper in the world says something like that, it’s a nice sign and encourages you,” she added.
She is part motivated by a desire to improve her Spanish, because “around 40 percent of the population in Houston, where I will train and live, are Spanish-speaking.”
However, news of her plans was greeted with disappointment by the German Athletics Association (DLV). Top German female athletes Konstanze Klosterhalfen, a 5,000m world bronze medallist, and Gina Lueckenkemper, the reigning European 100m champion, have already moved their training to the U.S.
“If athletes are looking for a new challenge to develop further, we can’t stop them,” DLV president Juergen Kessing said.
He wished Mihambo “all the best,” but pointed out that “title wins are certainly achievable within our support system.”
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