19th December 2018
MARTINA JUMPING AHEAD TO 2019
Two major finals, and two personal bests delivered, and they were her first ever Para Athletics World and European Championships to date. Martina Barber; a championship performer.
A significant 14cm was added to her previous best mark in the long jump at the World Para Athletics European Championships in August. A battle for the medals ensued but a fourth place was a great confidence booster for the Stevenage & Herts athlete.
Competing in the T20 classification for athletes with an intellectual disability, Martina broke onto the global stage at the World Championships in London, placing fourth on her debut with a then best of 5.17m.
Memorably dabbing to the crowd as she was introduced, Martina thrived on the championship atmosphere and the British team environment.
But what did it feel like in Berlin to leap further than you have ever leapt before?
“I didn’t really look at my prints afterwards and I normally do, so I had no idea how far I had jumped. Me and Roger (Keller – British Team Coach at the Championships) were speaking and he told me to look at the screen. I turned around and had to ask myself, ‘did I read that right?’ [regarding the 5.31m PB] Even when he repeated it to me, I couldn’t believe it, I just thought ‘oh my god!’. I couldn’t take it in at the time.
“I was buzzing; it was pretty similar to the feeling I had after the Worlds [in 2017]. I was really happy that I had jumped a PB. To be honest, I wasn’t even sure if I had finished fourth until I came off the track so it all went really quickly.”
The 23-year-old began her journey in the sport during her teenage years as she followed her sister down to the local track in Stevenage to try the sport out. After playing football at school, she was encouraged to go the track, but she says she “literally didn’t know what athletics was”.
After mainly focusing on the sprints and hurdles initially, she made a brief move into middle distances but soon realised that wasn’t for her.
After trying a variety of events, she was selected for the INAS (International Sports Federation for persons with an intellectual disability) World and European Championships in 2012. She competed in the multi-events and admitted to ‘dreading’ the 800m but really looking forward to the long jump.
World Indoor pentathlon and European heptathlon gold followed, and it was at this stage that she was spotted by British Athletics Parallel Success staff who encouraged her to attend one of the talent camps in the UK.
A focus on the long jump and 400m followed, and after completing her classification in Dubai, she was on track to compete for British teams in the future.
Her opportunity arose in 2017, but due to a timetable clash between her long jump and 400m, she had to make a choice to go with one of them. Long jump took precedence, and it has been her main focus ever since.
“I get to play in the sand, so that is a good thing.”
It’s hard to argue with that.
Barber is supported on the British Athletics World Class Programme as a Podium Potential athlete, and she will continue to seek progress over the next few years which include the Tokyo and Paris Paralympic Games. For now, she is enjoying her athletics and her time in the long jump pit.