As Emmanuel Ihemeje prepares for his final jump at the 2022 Pac-12 Championships, he turns to the crowd at Hayward Field and begins to cheer.
As the cheers escalate, Ihemeje takes off on her first jump. It runs down the track and gains so much momentum that if you blink you’ll miss it. Once he approaches the sandbox, he jumps off his right foot and clearly imprints his footprint in the box.
Officials rush to his landing spot and announce the distance: 54 feet 10 inches (16.71 meters). After six rounds of competition, he had saved his best jump for last and was crowned the Pac-12 Men’s Triple Jump Champion.
Once he realizes he’s won, he points to the scoreboard with his number flashing on the screen. With a big smile on his face, he realized he had the potential to be the best in the world.
“With each jump, I was trying to add pieces to the puzzle,” Ihemeje said. “On the last jump, I regained my confidence and I was ready to enjoy the race. Once I landed and heard the crowd cheering, I knew I was good.
After soaking up the victory and listening to the music of the cheering crowd, Ihemeje wraps himself in his burrito-like blanket.
“This is my chance,” he said. “I bring it with me to every meeting. It was a gift from a special person and since receiving it I have won consecutive championships. He accompanies me everywhere. »
Ihemeje was born and raised in Bergamo, Italy where he fell in love with the sport. His career exploded very early.
At the 2017 European U20 Athletics Junior Championships in Grosseto, Italy, triple jump world indoor record holder and two-time world champion Teddy Tamgho invited Ihemeje to join his training group in France. .
After moving to France to further his skills, he followed his family to the United States two years later. He moved to Los Angeles and enrolled at Cal State Northridge. However, his experience in California only lasted a few months due to the pandemic.
Ihemeje soon found himself taking classes at his new remote school and practicing on his own. When he decided another change was in order, he entered the NCAA transfer portal and found himself in Eugene.
One of the main reasons Ihemeje chose the University of Oregon was his mentor and coach, Robert Johnson.
“Basically, he is the brain; I am just the legs and the arms,” Ihemeje said. “I carry out everything he tells me because I trust him completely.”
Their relationship has generated huge gains since the beginning.
In Ihemeje’s first competition with Oregon, he broke the indoor school record with a 53 10.25 score at the Razorback Invitational in 2021. Just over a year into his career in Oregon, he is a two-time national indoor champion, national outdoor champion, a Pac-12 champion and an Olympian.
“I don’t think there’s a cap for this guy,” Johnson said of Ihemeje. “Everything I asked him to do, he was able to do it and he did it with a smile on his face.”
Ihemeje is scheduled to compete at the World Championships here in Eugene at the end of July.
“It’s just a calculated approach with EJ and making sure we continue to nurture him and put him in a position to succeed,” Johnson said. “We want to make sure we bring him in slowly because his future is very bright. We might be greedy and try to get everything now, but we are slowly but surely preparing for the future.
Ihemeje has a strong competitive nature and constantly strives to improve his work, which is why he fits so well into the Oregon program.
“I eat draft for breakfast,” Ihemeje said. “I love competition, I love being challenged and I know I can keep improving. It’s wonderful to be part of this team.”
At the age of 23, he’s built a solid resume and isn’t even close to being done.
“Coming here was the best choice I ever made in my life,” Ihemeje said. “It’s a whole different vibe, a whole different environment that I really love and that really fits me as a person. It wasn’t a miracle, but it was something big that happened in my life.