Perhaps it’s my skin tone. Or maybe the fact that I’ve recently done the Brazilian Blowout treatment to my hair. Whatever the case, these folks think I’m Brazilian. They speak to me so quickly in Portuguese that it makes my head spin. And the best I can do is smile and disappoint them. Only English,I say,… and maybe some spanish that I throw out in hopes that it happens to be the similar words they have in their language.
When I got to the competition site to compete, however, everyone knew that I was the American. My event consisted of 8 competitors, 7 of them from the home country, including the most recent Olympic Champion. The crowd was loud, energetic, and full of energy… until it was my turn to jump. Then it was crickets. I was so sure that my top two competitors were jumping world record distances because the crowd erupted in cheers every time they finished a fair jump, that I just knew there was a mistake when after the first three jumps the lady tried to tell me, in portuguese, that I would be jumping last. Last means you have the furthest jump so far in the competition, so I must’ve misunderstood her words mixed with hand signals. But I looked at the sheet and confirmed it. Sweet, I was winning.
I furthered my lead in the 5th round with a jump of 6.74 and continued to funnel the energy my way, even though I knew it wasn’t meant for me. The truth of the matter is though, I sort of enjoy the role of the underdog. I knew I was ready to jump well, but I certainly didn’t have any pressure from people assuming I was supposed to win. Not to mention it was a nice change that the entire crowd to stay and see the end of our competition even after all the running events were through because we had the crowd favorite competing and they were paying attention. We were the main show and not a side show that was quickly forgotten once the last race passed the finish line. Imagine that.
I have two more long jump competitions while I’m out here, and while I know I won’t be the crowd favorite, I look forward to competing in the crowd’s favorite event.