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Last Chance Meet Produces New National Record

2021 The College of New Jersey Last Chance Meet

A global pandemic and its restrictions have proven ineffective in keeping our athletes from breaking new ground in sport. They have demonstrated resilience and grit in overcoming the hurdle, landing both personal and historic milestones in sport. On 13 May 2021, in New Jersey, USA, Tia Louise Rozario leapt to a new Triple Jump National Record at The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) Last Chance Meet.

As the Singapore Sports School alumna took off from the board on her fourth out of six attempts, she knew that it would be a good jump. Yet, when the official announced her distance of 12.54m, Tia was shocked at the huge improvement from her previous best of 12.26m, which was the standing National Record at the time. Her earlier record was set in 2019 at the Hong Kong Inter-City Athletics Championships.

Before her fourth jump which put her in the lead, Tia had only recorded one successful jump of 12.04m in the third attempt. She was ranked third of four jumpers and knew she had more to give.

“I knew that my first two fouled jumps felt great, and was I confident that I was in good form to produce a good jump. I reminded myself to have fun and enjoy the competition – something former Singapore Sports School coach Huang Wen Lin had taught me, and is something I will always hold on to. During the jump, my mind was relaxed, and the jump flowed very naturally. It was like second nature and everything fell into place. Each phase of my jump felt a little longer than usual, and it was thrilling being in the air for such a long time,” said the Princeton University Year 2 student.

“I felt a great sense of pride, and it made me think of home. It has always been such an honour being able to represent Singapore, and I felt very blessed that I was able to make my family and friends back home proud. This national record meant a lot to me, as the disruptions from the pandemic have taken away so many opportunities from athletes these past 2 years. It is difficult to remain positive when seasons get cancelled and plans get disrupted, and I have so much respect for all the athletes who have pressed on through these difficult times and continued to pursue their dreams.”

Tia’s record-breaking jump won her the gold medal ahead of University of Pennsylvania's Tamara Grahovac (12.17m) and Princeton teammate Kara Steele (12.12m). Her feat also qualified her for the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division 1 East Preliminary Round in Jacksonville, Florida, from 26 to 29 May.

With the improvement in COVID-19 situation in New Jersey, hosting of local meets was officially approved on 17 April 2021. The team quickly made plans to compete in two meets: Princeton Invitational (25 April) and Rowan Track Fast Times Before Finals Meet (1 May).

At the Princeton Invitational, the long and triple jumps were held back-to-back. She recorded a Personal Best of 5.71m in the Long Jump to finish 2nd, before going into her pet event. Fatigue set in and Tia only managed 11.95m but was sufficient for another 2nd-place finish. She then had to overcome tough wind conditions of 6.1m/s headwinds at the Rowan meet to claim her third silver medal in seven days.

She was pleasantly surprised when her coach Reuben Jones presented her the opportunity to compete at the TCNJ meet and jumped at it. Tia made the best of the opportunity, even securing herself the chance to compete at the highest level of intercollegiate athletics sanctioned by the NCAA in the US where she recorded a distance of 11.68m in the 48-strong field.

Despite barely three years of triple jump experience under her belt, 20-year-old Tia has broken the national record thrice – the twice in the first year. She picked up the event during her final year at Sports School, switching from her specialisation in the hurdles and long jump, and has continued to improve in leaps and bounds. And with a short term goal to break her PB, she will not be resting on her laurels.

She credits her Princeton coach Reuben and training partner Kara Steele, as the main contributors to her progress and breakthrough.

“Coach Jones is a technical expert in the horizontal jumps, who has a lot of wisdom and experience having worked with high level athletes. He has been patient with me in working through my bad technical habits, and always brings me back to the basics to help tackle them. Kara, who also achieved a PB (12.56m) in April, has been my inspiration and role model. She constantly encourages me to push my boundaries, and has taught me how to work with purpose. With us putting in the hard work together at training, along with Coach Jones’ guidance in taking us to the next level, we managed to do exceptionally well as a duo in the short period of time.”

Tia also expressed appreciation towards her athletics team which has “provided an encouraging training environment I am so lucky to have.”

In April 2020, to avoid escape the escalating Covid situation in the US, Tia returned to Singapore and stayed till December. During that time at home, continued her training under her primary school coach Chu Seow Beng.

“The work I had put in with Coach Chu in the second half of 2020 also provided me with a strong foundation and pre-season form which allowed me to fully optimise my short in-season time in 2021.”

Since returning to the US in January this year, the new normal for her is masking up everywhere she goes – including during training and competitions.

“While sports activity is decreasing globally, I do recognise that I am very lucky to have been able to access the level of competition that I did, and remain thankful that my family has supported me every step of the way. Life in itself is full of uncertainty, and this pandemic has definitely allowed me to appreciate everything that I have on a deeper level.

“My long term target as an athlete is to be patient, remain focused, and remember to enjoy my time as an athlete. If this pandemic has taught me anything, it is that tomorrow is never guaranteed, and that this is no time for any athlete to be putting too much pressure on themselves. I believe that it is very important that we love what we do, as it will give us the drive and the purpose we require to achieve great things.”