Interview of James Otua Nyumtei

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The university of Colorado sports website described James Otua Nyumutei as “A standout” for the Colorado track and field team in the 1970s. Nyumutei was an NCAA triple jumper from 1974-76. His then-outdoor mark of 53′ 61/2”, set in 1974, is one of the longest standing records in the program’s annals.

Anumnyam: Otua, I wish to interview you for a website I’m building.

James Otua Nyumutei: I basically do not grant interviews because I do not want the focus to be on me, however I find your request exciting. I’m thrilled that you want this interview.

I count myself lucky. I have never seen anyone do the Triple jump with such grace, rhythm, ease and style like you. You made the event look so simple, the kind of simplicity in which beauty lies.

Thanks for the complements.

What was your time at Adisadel College in Ghana like?

To be honest I cannot seem to remember details but I do know that over all I had a very good time. I must say those were some of my formidable and character forming years where I got to learn how to trust, dealing with conflict and diversity, form dear and lasting relationships like with you, Obodai Torto, Clement Coffie, Charlie King Bruce, Narku Omaboe, Mowbray Elliott, Kojo Hayford, etc.

In my humble opinion anybody who did not go to a boarding school really missed out on something very important. I look back at my time there and I will not trade it for anything, yes; cutting trees or weeding the lawns was punishment for us; but the fun part was us seeking out at night to go to Holy Child for a secret rendezvous. What a time we had! Not to forget watching you guys’ play in the band, wow! How can I forget that?

You seem to have forgotten the field and your exploits there as a Triple jumper

I have never forgotten the fields, where I also played cricket. Triple Jump is one of the events that is truly easy but many do not have the patience it takes to complete the jump. I have always jokingly referred to it as the lazy “man’s event” because the slower you go through your phases the longer of a jump you will have as opposed to rushing through it.

What do you mean by “the patience it takes to complete the jump?”

There are three phases in the Triple jump, the hop, step and the jump. One cannot rush through the phases, by that I mean when you are in the hop or step phase you should not become too anxious to get back on the ground quickly but to take your time and ride it out, same applies for the last two phases. Most beginners have this notion that the ground will no longer be there for them land on so they rush to land quickly and that takes away from the distance of the hop and lessens your timing and strength to control for the remainder of the jump.

My understanding of what you’re saying is it is one step at a time. That is the athlete should take time to run, take time to hop and take time to step before thinking about the final jump; and not try to do all at once. Am I right?

Yes, one has to complete the hop phase before thinking about the step phase and the jump. You cannot anticipate before getting, you risk the chance of having a bad jump and possibly injuring yourself.

Would you share with us; and those who would like to take after, you what made you such a good Triple jumper?

These are what I think makes a good jumper:

 One must be diligent with techniques and training methods — hard work.
 Strength – weight training
 Lack of injuries
 God given talent
 Be a good listener and willing to take orders and accept constructive criticisms.

I was okay and lucky to have a bit of a talent but also a good coach at Adisadel, Mr. Agbo, the PE teacher. He took interest in me and encouraged me to carry on.
I was more interested in cricket and field hockey. I did the triple jump on a dare one day when the cricket team was waiting for the track team to get off the field. That dare subsequently changed my life forever!

Life is strange in so many ways. It was then that I met with a Peace Corp. volunteer coach (John Malcolm) from San Jose, California, who also took interest in my abilities and here I am. I am sad to say John and I lost contact a few years ago and all my efforts to locate him have fallen short. He used to come and visit with me in Boulder, Colorado.

Kindly elaborate on what training methods are designed for the Triple jumper?

In the Triple jump, the training methods are mostly in Plyometric/bounding exercises. This tends to build strength in legs and provides a quick and response recoil of the muscles in the quads and calves.

What is the ideal weight for the triple jumper? I mean what has weight got to do with jumping, will one not jump further if one is lighter in weight?.

I am not one of the coaches who places emphasis weight, there are no ideal weight, but the Triple jump is a punishing event on your joints and muscles, having said that it is pertinent that you build and maintain the best possible strength and flexibility in you core leg muscles for your body frame. They used to think that the ideal height and weight was between 5’10” – 6′ 1″ and around 170 – 185 lb. All that has changed when you get very tall men in the sport.

Some coaches believe in very tall men, 6′ 3″ and up, I do not ascribe to that school of thought, because you lose strength and longevity in the sport for an iffy performance. If you are thin or light you will not last in the Triple jump, you will be prone to lots of injuries due the nature of the sport. It is fun but it is very taxing on your whole body and especially on your thighs.

With each phase of the jump, your body is being jarred by every contact you make with the ground, sometimes if you land just a bit off center the pain that shoots through your body to your head can be excruciating.

I still think it is a fun sport even though not too many people tend to watch it or is not covered by the TV stations during the Olympics or the World championships like they do with some of the other marquee events like the 100, 200, 400, 800, 1,500, 5,000 meters respectfully.

I feel like I am back to coaching again, oh, the memories of coaching, both fun and frustrating times.

Would you please share what your typical day looked like before a major event? What kind of preparations did you go through both physical, psychological and not forgetting the spiritual? If you would recall the details of the day you jumped your record breaking jump you may use that as the perfect example; that is if it fits.

For me the preparation before a meet is done during the week around Wednesday through Friday. I do my hard workout till Wednesday and have easy days leading to the day of competition. I go through my mental picture of what I want to do and how I want to accomplish it. Basically, I visualize the jump and how far I realistically think I can go that weekend and I play it over and over in my mind for a couple of days. If I do not get butterflies in my stomach on Wednesday and Thursday, then I know I am not prepared.

I cannot imagine what butterflies in the stomach are?

Butterflies in your stomach are nothing more than being nervous.

Thanks for the explanation. Please carry on.

All athletes have a ritual that they go through for every meet, it never changes so some think it is superstition, it is just habit. Granted some take it a bit too far.
My only idiosyncrasy is that my competing uniform and tracksuit has to be laundered and pressed with brand new socks to be worn for that competition only. Why, I do not know.

Would you agree with a suggestion that in the matter of the socks it was because metaphysically you’re going to experience something new, something you’ve never experienced before and you want all to be in harmony?

There are other athletes who will never wash their uniforms or socks because they believe if they did, they will start losing.

Please carry on

On the day of the competition, I really do not do much. I take a bath, read in the morning, have a good breakfast and relax. I will then have a good lunch and leave to for the stadium two hours before I have to compete.

Are there any particular kind of literature you read? If there are why?

I used to read the newspaper or schoolbooks, nothing too heavy.

Please carry on

The day I broke the record was just like any other day, but the jump did not feel that difficult and I felt like I was floating a bit longer in the air. I must say I do miss competition, not the actual competition but the preparation leading to it.

What were some of the high points and finest hours in your career as a Triple jump coach and what made these moments so special? Did they compensate adequately for the frustrating times?

Coaching does not pay well, unless you are the head coach of an American football team. I coached because I was asked to help at my alma mater and it turned out that I loved it plus I had my primary day job as a financial analyst. If you like to teach and have the patience then coaching is fun!

There is nothing like teaching somebody something over a period of time and seeing them finally get it, the expression on their faces is just priceless. To see them perform well when they thought they have been struggling. As much as I was proud of my university student athletes’ achievements in the field of athletics, I was the most proud, when they either won or were awarded academic recognition and awards.

Interesting and thanks for talking to us. We shall continue another day
You are welcome

Anumnyam wishes to thank; Nana Kwaku Agyemang (UEFA Licensed Coach & Sports Analyst)
– for reading through the final work and liking it.