Freda Five with Olympian Jazmin Sawyers

Posted on: 24 October 2018

In the world of athletics, Jazmin Sawyers is quickly becoming a household name. The Olympian long jumper is famous not just for her mindblowing strength and agility, but also for speaking up about taboos in the world of sport. Jazmin recently spoke out about her decision not to compete whilst on her period, opening up a conversation around menstruation in the sporting world. Fearless doesn’t even begin to cover this 24-year-old.

1) What do you think it means to be a female athlete today?

Being a female athlete right now is great, but still tough. We have more opportunities than ever but still not nearly as many as the men. In athletics, we’re “lucky” because we’re on almost a level playing field to them – you don’t get a choice about watching men’s or women’s athletics, you just watch the sport as a whole, so I think generally we’re treated as equals. But in other sports, especially team sports, women have to fight to be paid when the men are multi-millionaires.

One great thing about being a woman in sport in this day and age is being able to show younger girls that they really can do anything. More and more doors are being opened for women each day, and we should continue to push for them, as I want the next generation of sportswomen to have even more opportunities than I’ve had.

2) In what ways does your period affect your training or your competing? Are there any taboos in sport that you’d like to tackle. We know you did a great job with periods – how was the response to that?

I’ve had an absolute nightmare with my period in competition as you probably know! I’ve had such painful periods that I was almost unable to compete at the Olympics, and I had to pull out of an international competition last year as I couldn’t walk, let alone long jump.

I think this is one thing that so many athletes feel they have to hide or be ashamed of, but it’s so normal and natural. It’s something that our bodies do, in the same way that I breathe and I sweat, I also bleed, and we should be fine talking about it. I wrote a few posts and an article about the topic and the response was overwhelmingly positive – so many women responded saying they’d experienced the same difficulties but felt they couldn’t talk about it or ask their coaches or team staff for the help that they needed because it was too embarrassing. I understand that feeling, but I hope we can end it, because if I’d felt able to talk about it much sooner, perhaps we’d have found a solution long before my period troubled me at the most important competition of my life!

3) What advice do you have for aspiring female athletes?

My advice for aspiring sports women is this: pursue what you want relentlessly. It’s going to look impossible at times, and people will tell you that it is (even more so because you’re a woman.) I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve been told I’m too short to be a long jumper. They’re just wrong, plain and simple.

Most of the restrictions we have on ourselves are only in our minds, and while we all experience different levels of privilege, you can do so much more than you think you can.

My second piece of advice is to choose the thing that you can’t talk about without getting excited. Don’t choose the thing with the most prestige, or the biggest paycheck, or the thing that your Mum has always wanted. Choose the thing that you end up spending hours on Youtube looking at, or that you somehow always find yourself doing in your free time anyway. If you think you don’t have a passion, look more carefully, it’s there.

4) What’s your number one PMS tip? Any favourite foods/drinks/exercises?

I get crazy sugar cravings as part of my own personal PMS, which isn’t ideal for elite sports! I shouldn’t really be heading to the shop to buy blocks of chocolate to shovel down my throat, so I try and kill the cravings with things like chocolate protein shakes and lots and lots of herbal tea. There’s just something comforting about herbal tea isn’t there?!

5) You’re a super busy human, from university to international level athletics. How do you manage to find balance in a world so full of different stresses?

Balance isn’t something I’m actually great at, but at any one time I have one priority. If you can decide which one thing is most important to you, then everything else just has to fit around that – you kind of make it work because it has to.

I take on far more than my mum would like me to, but I love having lots going on, it helps me to feel fulfilled. I’m a huge fan of a to-do list and make one every night for the next day. Absolutely everything goes on there, and it means that I’m not left being idle or unproductive as I’ve always got something else to be doing – I can see it right in front of me on my list! My other big tip is to journal. I love to dump all my thoughts out on to paper before I go to bed, it helps me to sleep and also sometimes I find solutions to things I’ve been worrying about just by getting my thoughts together!

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