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Leap of faith

Leap of faith


It was love at first sight when Naa Anang discovered long jump. But it took loving herself to transform into the athlete she wanted to be.

For ACU student-athlete Naa Anang, the euphoric feeling lasts for a fraction of a second.

The moment between take-off and landing tells her when all the training, discipline and sacrifice has harmonised to produce a perfect jump. In the split second before she splashes down in an explosion of sand, Naa is truly happy.

“When I’m floating in mid-air and nothing else matters, that’s when I know I’ve got everything right,” said Naa. “When it all clicks, you can feel it – there’s this sense of effortlessness.”

Forgiveness

It takes a lifetime of effort, organisation and attention to detail to achieve those moments of bliss.

Even when the execution is spot-on, the 24-year-old doesn’t always climb out of the long jump pit with the result she deserves.

She finished ninth in Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games final with a 6.22 metre leap that was well below her best.

While Australian teammate Brooke Stratton celebrated a silver medal, a defeated Naa dissected her own performance.

The deflating experience led to a discovery that set her off on a more forgiving pathway to fulfillment.

“I was comparing myself to other jumpers and wanted to know why I wasn’t doing what they were,” Naa said. “I didn’t realise how much that was holding me back.”

Naa Anang

Naa Anang

“I enjoy reading the Bible and I wanted to believe what God says about me. To love myself. That’s what made me realise I had to start backing myself.

“There’s a process there and it’s taken a lot of time. But it’s about loving yourself, allowing yourself to go through that awkward phase and then giving yourself an opportunity to go out and try again.”

Keeping it real

Since then, Naa has turned around her athletics career.

Now an Australian champion in both long jump and the 100 metre sprint, she will represent her adopted country at the 2019 World Championships in Qatar.

Armed with her new psychological approach she launched herself to personal bests in the long jump (6.81) and 100 metre (11.32secs) at the national team selection trials and has competed successfully at international Diamond League and World Challenge meets.

Staying grounded, though, is never a problem.

While professional athletes in other sports can earn a fortune, Naa still lives with her parents on Brisbane’s northside and survives on grants that barely cover her expenses.

The third-year Bachelor of Physiotherapy student is a member of ACU’s Elite Athlete and Performer Program and often declines cultural experiences while overseas to cram in a few hours of study.

Within hours of touchdown from a recent competition in Nanjing, China, Naa’s dedication delivered her back to campus.   

“It was a revision class, so it felt like it was designed just for me,” Naa said. “It’s like the Nike ad says, ‘Just do it’. There’s no other way.

“Study is a priority for me, so I make time. Sometimes you’ve got to say to the others in the squad, go ahead, I’ll sit this one out.”

A natural

Naa was a toddler when she moved with her family from Ghana to Australia.

Her name means princess, but she was anything but that when her older brothers Tetteh and Nii first dragged her along to Little Athletics.

Naa is strong

Whether it was the thrill of competition or lure of a McDonald’s voucher for winning, she fell in love with the sport.

Her sporting talents – she was also an accomplished touch footballer – developed at Brisbane State High School, but a broken leg and back stress fractures during her mid-teens meant progress was slow.

It was not until Naa joined the elite Queensland Academy of Sport under jumps coach Gary Bourne that her athletics career blossomed.

Bourne coached Bronwyn Thompson to a Commonwealth Games gold medal in 2006 and Mitchell Watt to Olympics and world titles silver. All of Bourne’s jumpers have battled serious injuries. Naa’s physiotherapy studies have helped her prepare for careers on and off the track. 

“Being a physiotherapy student means she’s very good in that space,” Gary said. “Often, athletes don’t understand when to back off.

“Naa doesn’t wait until she’s teetering on the edge of a serious injury before she puts her hand up.”

Naa Anang is a member of ACU’s Elite Athlete and Performer Program and studies a Bachelor of Physiotherapy. Learn more about ACU

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Impact brings you compelling stories, inspiring research, and big ideas from ACU. It's about the impact we’re having on our communities, and our Mission in action. It’s a practical resource for career, life and study.

At ACU it’s education, but not as you know it. We stand up for people in need, and causes that matter.

If you have a story idea or just want to say hello, do contact us.

Copyright@ Australian Catholic University 1998-2019 | ABN 15 050 192 660 CRICOS Reg: 00004G