Teenage long jump sensation Larissa Iapichino at the Olympics and tying her mother’s record


Even now, two and a half months after her jump to the Italian indoor championships, the 18-year-old struggles to explain what she felt as she set a new world junior indoor record and matched the Italian indoor record.

“I can’t describe it. It was kind of like I had this power outage and then I realized it all, and it was like: Wow,” Iapichino told CNN Sport.

The 18-year-old’s 6.91-meter jump in February also had personal significance.

Iapichino’s mother, two-time Olympic silver medalist Fiona May, is the only Italian to jump the same distance indoors. The two now share a spot on the country’s long jump record books, but that doesn’t mean May is at all worried about ceding records to her daughter.

“She was in the competition,” says Iapichino. “She walked over to me and said, ‘You could have been 6.92m.’ And I was like: ‘Mom?!

“She was so happy for me. And she doesn’t mind if one day I break her records. […] she always pushes me to do my best. “

Iapichino is now preparing to compete in the Tokyo Olympics later this year. Her mother, who was born in Great Britain but competed for Italy after marrying former pole vaulter Gianni Iapichino, has already passed on some advice after competing in five Olympics during her career.
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Iapichino competes in the women's long jump at the Italian Indoor Championships in Ancona on February 20.

“She said you have to be there and feel the emotions, feel the typical atmosphere of the Olympic Games,” explains Iapichino. “She couldn’t describe it to me. She said you must feel it on your own skin.

“I watch my mom’s videos sometimes. It’s so strange to see my mom as an athlete because all my life I’ve seen her as my mom, like the one who tells me to do my homework, not to sleep late.

“But she was a legend – and she is a legend here in Italy – and that makes me really proud of her.”

Named in honor of Larisa Berezhnaya, a former long jumper competing for the USSR and Ukraine and May’s rival in the 1990s, it may seem that Iapichino was always destined to get into the sport on her own. .

But after starting his sporting life as a gymnast and despite his family origins, the long jump never seemed obvious.

“When I started athletics I hated the long jump, it was my worst event,” says Iapichino.

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“I was a sprinter and a hurdler and one day my old trainer asked me to do this long jump competition just for fun […] and I started to jump away.

“From that moment on, I was like, ‘Oh, that’s not so bad.’ And then I started training for it, and here I am.

“It was pretty laid back and I’m really happy with it. My first love was the hurdles, but my heart is with the long jump. I mean, it’s something that maybe I’m quite fond of because that it is also a family affair. “

Nationally, Iapichino has achieved considerable success – most recently his record-breaking jump to Ancona in February which earned him the Italian indoor title.

She was also crowned European Under-20 Champion in 2019 after beating athletes nearly two years her senior, something she has grown used to throughout her career.

“I have always been the youngest,” she says. “When I was U18 I competed with the U20s, and now I’m U20 and I compete with the seniors. I’m used to it.

“But senior competitions are different. It’s a battleground, literally, but it’s quite fun and challenging to compete with these women who are so inspiring.”

Iapichino now aims to jump over seven meters – “a really important measure in the women’s long jump” – and beyond that is her mother’s Italian record of 7.11m as a distant target.

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Mother and daughter Fiona May (left) and Larissa Iapichino share the Italian indoor long jump record.

She also leads a busy life outside of athletics. In addition to training for two and a half to three hours a day, five times a week, Iapichino is also in his final year of high school and will be taking his final exams in June. She then plans to study law in Florence while pursuing her sports career.

“It’s pretty hard to balance those two things,” says Iapichino.

“Usually I study late. Sometimes I try to find little pieces in my free time to just copy a few notes, study. So it’s quite difficult, but with hard work anything is possible.”

Iapichino will be 19 and just graduated from high school when she competes in the Olympics, which start on July 23.

Her main emotions ahead of the Games are “enough excitement”, although her family may not be able to travel with her to Tokyo after international spectators were banned from attending amid the pandemic.

Iapichino is preparing for his first Olympics.

“They will be with me by phone, video calls and SMS,” says Iapichino.

“Having your family there, your first Olympics, I think it’s quite moving and important, but it’s pretty complicated. So we’ll see.”

If her family can’t be with her in person in Tokyo, then the lessons she learned from two former athletes certainly will.

“I’ve always been brought up with the values ​​of sport – hard work, determination – which has influenced my athletic career a lot,” said Iapichino.

“From the moment I started playing sports and even in life, I still rely on these values ​​that they teach me from the world. Sport has been part of my life forever.”

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