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Personal Best Catapults Foster To Long Jump Bronze

By Brittany Davis | Aug. 23, 2014, 1:09 p.m. (ET)

Rhesa Foster competes in the women's long jump final at the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games on Aug. 23, 2014.

NANJING, China – Like every Youth Olympian, Rhesa Foster came to China in hopes of returning home from the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games with a medal.

But in track, there’s also such a thing as a personal best, or PR, which drives each athlete to maximize their full potential. And that’s exactly what Foster accomplished Saturday night when she leaped 6.17 meters to claim the bronze medal in the women’s long jump at the Nanjing Olympic Sports Center Stadium. 

“It’s a great feeling, especially to medal with a PR – it’s really exciting,” said Foster. “I was hoping to get the 21-footer to win the gold. That’s what I’ve been working for all summer, but I did the best that I could, and I’m happy with the result.”

Foster became the first American to medal in a track and field event at these Games, and the second U.S. woman to medal in the women’s long jump at the Youth Olympics, following in the footsteps of Le’Tristan Pledger, who also earned bronze with the same personal-best jump of 6.17 meters at the inaugural Youth Olympic Games in 2010.

Clearly, Foster knows a little something about upholding legacies.  

Her father and coach, Robert Foster, is a two-time Olympic hurdler, who competed for Jamaica at the  1996 and 2000 Olympic Games. 

Foster knew that her father would be watching from the stands, along with her mother, Elisa, and younger brother, Caleb. Before heading to the stadium, her parents had one final piece of advice.

“As my coach, my dad always has some technical pointers, but both of my parents told me to enjoy the experience – to go out there, have fun and to do my best,” said Foster.

Sitting in sixth place after her first attempt, Foster knew it would take a personal best to jump into medal contention.

“I wasn’t even in the top-three after my first jump, so going into the second jump, I told myself, ‘I’m in this to win it.’ To do that, I needed to compete hard, focus on every little detail and just go for it,” she added.

Also setting a personal record was Ukraine’s Yelyzaveta Baby, who claimed the top podium spot with a winning leap of 6.26 meters. Italy’s Beatrice Fiorese jumped 6.21 meters to take silver. 

“It’s an incredible experience to be able to represent your country,” said Foster.  “I competed hard and did the best I could, but at the same time, I’ve had a great experience with all the different countries from around the world. The Games have given me a chance to compete with people I’ve never met before, and it’s been a great experience. The medal just makes it that much more special.”

In addition to Foster’s bronze medal, Team USA also garnered five top-10 finishes on the third day of the track and field competition at the Nanjing 2014 Games. Tyler Merkley and Haley Showalter posted a pair of seventh-place finishes in the men’s and women’s discus with throws of 56.27 and 45.12 meters. Meanwhile, on the track, Brittny Ellis placed sixth in the women’s 400-meter with a time of 53.82 seconds, while Amere Lattin crossed the finish line in 15.53 to finish seventh in the men’s 110-meter hurdles. Earlier in the day, Kimani Rushing raced her way to an eighth-place finish in the women’s 100-meter hurdles with a time of 14.05. 

Team USA continues competition Sunday (Aug. 24) with the men’s and women’s 200 finals.