Former Southlander has 2020 Games vision

JAMIE SEARLE
Last updated 05:00 24/07/2014
Greer Alsop
JOHN HAWKINS/Fairfax NZ
BACK HOME: Greer Alsop visits Surrey Park, Invercargill, this week. The track and field venue is where the Washington-based Kiwi started her career in athletics.

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An ankle injury has hindered Greer Alsop's first year at Washington State University.

The ex-Southland Girls' High School student was New Zealand's best woman triple jumper in the under-18 and under-20 sections from 2010 up to when she left for the United States 12 months ago. She has also won New Zealand long jump titles.

Alsop was head-hunted by a talent scout working on behalf of the university. The university was short of triple jumpers and long jumpers and offered Alsop a five-year scholarship.

The 20-year-old is back in Invercargill for three months to catch up with family and friends.

Alsop's training for her first athletics meet in the United States was put on hold when she had ankle surgery in May to remove bone chips. She said the injury might have stemmed from what she thought was a sprained ankle suffered in a physical education class at Southland Girls' High School a few years ago.

Pain from the ankle never went away and worsened this year, necessitating surgery.

For her to fulfil her main goal - to compete at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo - Alsop believes she must stay in the United States.

"I will come home to have a family later but to get to the [Tokyo] Olympics, I need to be in America. There's so many more opportunities over there."

The university provides Alsop with high performance coaches and training programmes, indoor and outdoor training facilities and the latest equipment.

"The sad part is that my family can't be there to see me compete [at American events], but I suppose that's part of growing up," Alsop said.

The university's talent scout noticed Alsop's results at a national track and field championship. She was not sure if the scout was at the champs or at a classics meet.

"We never met ... They had nothing to do with Athletics New Zealand," Alsop said.

Her best triple jump mark of 12.59m was set at the national champs in Auckland in 2012. She finished second in the under-20 section. Alsop recorded 12.39m (triple jump) for silver at the Youth Commonwealth Games in Isle of Man in 2011.

Track and field coach Lance Smith, of Invercargill, was the first to spot Alsop's talent. He knew when Alsop trained as a 13-year-old that she had the X-factor.

"You can tell the way they run and jump," Smith said yesterday.

He added that most athletes don't reach their prime until mid-to-late 20s.

Alsop said Smith was an amazing mentor. "He's a life coach as well as an athletics coach."

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- The Southland Times

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