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World Challenge: Darcy Roper’s long jumping into a new life

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Things were not working out at home between Darcy Roper and his dad’s partner, so Darcy packed his bags. He was 16 and not sure what to do. So he went to school, knocked on the door and asked if they would take him in. They had boarders at Brisbane Boys College and warmly opened their doors to him.

During the school term things were fine but over the school holidays the boarding house closed up and the students returned home. Roper had nowhere to go so he bounced around between friends’ houses.

“I did a lot of couch surfing,” he said.

Roper was supposed to be training at the time but without a licence or car and having to take a bed where he could he was often too far from the track to get to training by public transport. So he did what he could on his own but training came second.

He stopped speaking with his dad for a period, and his mum lived in Melbourne so he was on his own. He had no one to tell him what to do, to pull him up and straighten him out.

“I had no boundaries, no parents around telling me what to do, I could do what I wanted. Mum had no clue what I was doing because she was in Melbourne and dad and I didn’t speak for eight months,” Roper said.

Roper was supposed to be training for the long jump at the world youth championships in Colombia. He tried to keep himself fit but was not training with the intensity and diligence he should have been. He couldn’t, it was logistically not possible. He needed the pre-travel training camps to help.

He got to Colombia and onto the track. He made it through the early rounds without distinction and was not threatening the lead. He needed something with his final jump.

“I remember I stood at the top of the runway for my last jump and you can see it on the video now I am just staring down the runway at the boards. I was saying to myself ‘You can change your life with this jump’,” Roper recalled.

“I was in a bad place at the time and I was thinking to myself I could change and I could do something. I needed that jump. I thought if I could pull out a jump I could change my life. And I did.”

Roper jumped further than he ever had before. He cleared eight metres for the first time in his life – he jumped 8.01m – and won the silver medal.

“I had one last shot at it and I got it. I’m spewing I didn’t get the gold but I got the medal and it did change my life. It changed everything. Asics jumped on board, which was huge for me. Things have changed.”

Roper is one of Australia’s most promising athletes. After Colombia Asics picked him up as one of their athletes, helping with sponsorship money and gear. He returned home to Brisbane and finished his year 12, graduating and getting into a Bachelor of Business. He has deferred that this year to concentrate on training, and is working in an Asics store.

He has his driving licence and with it the independence to get himself to training and home. He has moved in to board with a family friend, who is a triathlete and so in bed early and up at 4am to train. He has renewed contact with his dad.

“I love my dad and always knew we would be back in touch but it was a hard period because I don’t get along with his partner, but Dad and I will always be OK. We speak every day or two again now,” Roper said.

Roper might make it to Rio this year, but he knows that given he has not yet hit 18 things would have to fall his way for that to happen. He would most likely need a roll down for IAAF qualifying and need to start hitting around the 8m mark regularly. Still the experience of being there and handling the day in the Olympic stadium among the world’s best would be worth it for him on the road to Tokyo in four years.

Before that he will be in Melbourne on Saturday night at the World Challenge as he tries to make 7.70 to 7.80 his new reliable minimum.

“When I look back at last year I don’t know how we [coach Luke Donatini and he] did it,” Darcy said.

“I don’t know what would have happened without all those people who helped, and my school was amazing, I don’t think I would have got where I did if I was at another school. They just said yes when I turned up and knocked on the door with my bags and said I need somewhere to stay.

“Whenever I step out on the runway I have always been able to change my head space. I can switch on and focus and put everything else out of my head.

“We were travelling on a bumpy road for a long time but I have a stable job now, a stable environment. Now I am in a good place.

“Hopefully Melbourne will be good for me this week. Every time I jump now I think it is another chance to change everything and keep changing.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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