Thomas targets big leap - Triple jumper sets sights on 15m, 4x400m
Take one look at Jamaican Olympic triple jump hopeful Shanieka Thomas and her potential is obvious.
At six-foot tall and 145 pounds, she is built almost exactly like world record holder Inessa Kravets.
Thomas, 11th at the 2015 World Championships, knows the similarity and hopes one day to match the Ukrainian's fine achievements.
Kravets set the record - 15.50 metres - at the 1995 Worlds and took gold as well at the 1996 Olympics.
"The fact that the world record holder has the same build as me is encouragement to show I'm able to achieve the world record or even more," she observed after a training session at the Mona campus of the University of the West Indies last week.
"A lot of people don't remember that the world record holder has a really slim build," she pinpointed.
Thomas, a three-time US collegiate champion at San Diego State University, left California to train at Mona last season.
"Everyone was asking me, 'Why come back to Jamaica and there's not a lot of people doing well in the field events?'," she recalled. "It's hard to have a lot of people doing well in the field events if nobody actually comes home to show the talent the coaches have here," she analysed. "So it's a big jump, and it was risky at first, but I like the transition because it's been going well."
With astute advice from her coach, Kerry-Lee Ricketts, the former Vere Technical High School student-athlete qualified for the Worlds at the last opportunity with a winning 14.23-metre jump at the NACAC Championships in Costa Rica. Now their goal is to make her faster and stronger.
"This year," she revealed, "we're focusing on getting more speed down the runway, as well as strengthening, making sure I'm more powerful."
Now almost 24, Thomas has great respect for retired 2005 World Champion Trecia Smith and her former Vere Technical teammate, Kimberly Williams, who in 2014 succeeded Smith as Commonwealth champion.
Mention of Smith's national record of 15.16 metres and Thomas glows.
"That's a really big performance, and I would love to jump at least 15.01," she envisioned, "just to be over the mark."
During her San Diego years, the 2008 Carifta Games Under-17 champion ran relays on a regular basis. Now she dreams of running the 4x400 in black green and gold.
"Every season, I contemplate doing the 400, but when I start thinking about the training for the 400," she shudders, "I'm like, no. I'm going to stick with the triple jump."
She is encouraged by the relay running of World and Olympic triple jump men's champion Christian Taylor at the 2014 World Relays.
"If it's not the Olympics or the World Championships," she said, "if it's even like the Pan-Am Games or something like that, I want to run a 4x4 ... for Jamaica."
Runs over 350 and 400 metres are part of her background training for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, and she says "you'll maybe see me on the 4x4 for UWI for the preparation towards Rio".