New Irish record launches Elizabeth Ndudi into Olympic long jump conversation

University of Illinois student broke the 14-year-old Irish long jump record last weekend, jumping an impressive 6.68 metres

When Elizabeth Ndudi first considered the University of Illinois as the best place to pursue her athletics she told the head coach Petros Kyprianou that her goal was to make the Olympics. Kyprianou said that would be his goal too.

In truth it wasn’t the Paris Olympics that Ndudi had in mind, only that’s suddenly changed after she broke the 14-year-old Irish long jump record in Illinois at the weekend, leaping out to an impressive 6.68 metres.

Still only 19, Ndudi announced her arrival on the big stage with considerable style and grace last August, winning the long jump gold medal at the European Under-20 Championships in Jerusalem – a first field event gold for Ireland in the 53-year history of that level of competition.

Now, after improving the previous Irish record of 6.62m which had stood to Kelly Proper since 2010 (and was actually set indoors), Ndudi has put herself in potential Olympic qualification range, her first round jump of 6.68m a world-leading mark for an under-20 athlete this year.


Given it was one of her first outdoor competitions, there’s clearly room for further improvement; her previous best was the 6.56m she jumped to win gold last August.

The automatic qualifying mark for Paris is 6.86m, those games now just 100 days away, but there is also the world rankings quota which Ndudi could possibly move into ahead of the cut-off date of June 30th.

Her upcoming competitions will determine her prospects, with the American NCAA Championships on the second weekend in June her priority, likely ruling her out of the European Championships in Rome, from June 7th-12th, should she also qualify there. She will also be targeting the World Under-20 Championships which are set for Peru later in August, after the Olympics.

Ireland didn’t qualify a single field-event athlete for the Tokyo Olympics; as things stand on the current world rankings, Eric Favors is in line to qualify in the shot put, and Reece Ademola is also inside the men’s long jump qualifying quota. Nicola Tuthill is just one place outside the women’s hammer qualifying quota.

Born in Dublin, her mother of Irish-Dutch parentage, her father from Nigeria, Ndudi started athletics while at primary school at St Attracta’s in Ballinteer, south county Dublin, also joining up with Dundrum-South Athletic Club at that same time, where her talent was further nurtured.

Then the family moved to Nantes in France in 2016, when Ndudi was aged 11, and in recent years she was coached by Julien Guilard at Racing Club Nantes AC. The move to Illinois is certainly working out so far, the Cyprus-born Kyprianou, known for his expertise in the long jump, already coaching several previous Olympians.

Meanwhile Rhasidat Adeleke is now confirmed for both the women’s 4x400m relay and the mixed 4x400m relay at next month’s World Athletics Relays, set Nassau in the Bahamas on May 4-5, with Paris Olympic qualification also on the line.

The top 14 teams in each event qualify for Paris, Adeleke part of the 11-strong Irish squad making the trip. Sharlene Mawdsley will also feature in both events after anchoring both relay teams at the World Championships last summer, and part of the women’s team that finished fifth at the World Indoor Championships in Glasgow in March.

Thomas Barr will also set aside his hurdles ambitions to help the qualification cause, as he did for Tokyo. Cillin Greene, Jack Raftery and Christopher O’Donnell complete the men’s squad, Phil Healy, Sophie Becker, Roisin Harrison, Lauren Cadden and Rachal McCann also on the women’s squad.

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan is an Irish Times sports journalist writing on athletics