There will be no birthday celebration for Markus Rehm this year. At least, not immediately. The Paralympic and world long jump champion turns 30 on 22 August, three days before he sets out to win his fourth consecutive European title at Berlin 2018.
“I’ll be focused on the Europeans. My friends asked me if I would celebrate and I said, ‘Guys I have the Europeans, I have to wait until the weekend but then we will go out after,’” said Rehm.
By then, the German T64 long jumper hopes to have plenty to celebrate – his birthday, a gold medal – and if recent form is anything to go by, another world record.
Last month Rehm finally broke the mark he set in 2015, leaping 8.47m in the final round of the Japan Para Athletics Championships in Tokyo.
“This season I was often jumping my best in the last round so I knew that I could do that. Then it just happened,” explained Rehm, who endured a brief but anxious wait to find out how far he had jumped.
“I looked to the side and checked it was over eight metres, but I didn’t know how far. It was electronic measurement so I couldn’t see anything, and of course I couldn’t understand because it was in Japanese.
“Then it came on the screen and I just freaked out a bit – I was happy.”
‘It was about time’
The result added seven centimetres on to his previous best and provided a sense of relief after failing to improve on his best during the last two seasons – he won world gold at London 2017 with a best of 8.00m, albeit still more than one metre ahead of his rivals.
“It was about time,” acknowledged Rehm. “I was really looking forward to this day. I knew already last year that I was in good shape, but I just couldn’t make it in the competitions.
“I have high expectations of myself and after London I was super angry at myself because I did not show what I was able to do. I was actually motivated after London.
“It’s a great relief and now I’m really happy. Of course, I put the biggest pressure on myself because I knew I could do it. If I get similar conditions again I think I’m definitely able to go close.”
Now, as he heads to his home Championships in Berlin with that weight off his shoulders, he is more ready than ever.
“Of course it is a motivation ahead of the Europeans because I know I can do it. I would love to [break the world record] there again and I’m just hoping now for good conditions,” he said.
He has also set his sights on another landmark distance – 8.50 metres.
“I really want to do this and I know the German record is 8.54m (set by Lutz Dombrowski at the Moscow 1980 Olympics) so it would be great to come close and motivate some others.
“I just want to chase the limit. I want to know how far I can go and I don’t want to think in a few years’ time that I haven’t done everything I could, that I was lazy. I want to know I’ve done everything.”