Former Alaska champion long jumper wins bronze

Beth Bragg

Janay DeLoach is Alaska's newest Olympic medalist and she doesn't care if she won her medal by a mile or a millimeter.

DeLoach, a 2003 Eielson High graduate, bagged the bronze medal in women's long jump Wednesday in London, jumping less than half an inch farther than the fourth-place finisher.

"Words cannot describe how I feel right now. I'm on Cloud Nine," DeLoach told reporters in a press conference after her competition. "It felt so good that I was able to barely get that bronze medal, but barely is a bronze medal.

"Whether it's by a centimeter or 10 centimeters, it's still a bronze medal and I'm thankful."

DeLoach has come a long way since her days in Fairbanks, where cold and snow mean the track and field season starts late and ends after just a few weeks.

The talent that carried her to four Alaska high school long jump championships landed her at the Olympics at age 26. There, she helped the United States to an incredible burst of glory at the Olympic Stadium, where American track and field athletes grabbed seven medals in a 90-minute span.

DeLoach had some moments of anxiety before she claimed a share of the bounty.

Her bronze medal jump didn't come until her fifth attempt and it just barely lifted her past Latvia's Ineta Radevica. DeLoach jumped 6.89 meters (22 feet, 7 1/4 inches) to edge Radevica, who sailed 6.88 meters (22-6 3/4).

"The pressure was there," DeLoach told reporters, "but it's good pressure and you learn how to channel that energy and that feeling into your performance."

DeLoach was the last of four Alaska-connected athletes to compete in London -- and the third to win a medal. A pair of former UAF riflery team members collected medals in the 50-meter 3-position rifle competition -- Jamie Gray won the women's gold medal and Matt Emmons took the men's bronze medal.

DeLoach, who lives and trains in Fort Collins, Colo., has been among the world's top long jumpers for a couple of seasons. At last year's world championships, she placed sixth, and at this year's world indoor championships, she finished second. She came into the Olympics with a personal best of 7.03 meters (23-0 3/4).

DeLoach said her silver from the world indoor meet gave her confidence Wednesday.

"It's about mind-frame," she said. "I knew I could do it, so I made it happen. I was drawing a lot of energy from the crowd."

She also got a boost from teammate Brittney Reese, who took the gold with a jump of 7.12 meters (23-4 1/4) to top silver medalist Elena Sokolova of Russia, who leaped 7.07 meters (23-2 3/4).

"Brittney gives me a standard to go by," she said. "She pushes most of the athletes to their best. We're all doing our best to get up there with her."

Reese and DeLoach are friends as well as competitors and they spent moments talking to each other during Wednesday's finals.

"I couldn't go out there and not chit-chat with her," DeLoach said. "You have to be in the right frame of mind and be relaxed and we do talk to each other.

"She was telling me earlier, 'All you need to do is jump 6.90 meters to medal.' ''

Turns out 6.89 did the trick.

DeLoach went 6.77 meters on her first jump, which put her in fourth place for most of the finals. She scratched on her second jump, went 6.71 on her third and 6.74 on her fourth. She uncorked her bronze-medal jump on her fifth attempt and scratched on her last attempt.

DeLoach showed signs of greatness at Eielson High, where she starred in basketball and track. She was a four-time state long jump champion, setting Alaska records as a sophomore, junior and senior. Her state record of 19-5 from 2003 still stands.

By joining Reese on the podium, DeLoach helped the United States make history by claiming two medals in the women's long jump for the first time in Olympic history.

"I am an Olympic Bronze medalist!" she wrote on Twitter. "Thank the Lord for giving me just enough to stand on the podium and represent the United States!"

Reach Beth Bragg at or 257-4335. Daily News wire services and information provided by USA Track & Field contributed to this report.

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