Oct. 31, 2017
By Brad Muller | More Features
Rougui Sow is on the fast track to jump farther than anyone else. South Carolina’s junior long jumper impressed quickly when she arrived on campus last January from France and earned first-team All-America honors at the NCAA Indoor and Outdoor Championships. Now she has only one goal in mind: to win the NCAA Championship this spring.
“You have to visualize your success,” Sow said. “You have to visualize how you are going to get there. If you don’t, you won’t do it. Everybody wants to win, but not everybody wants to do what you have to do to win.”
Sow didn’t waste any time in making her presence known after recording one of the best long jump seasons in Gamecock history. She collected three podiums during the indoor regular season in her initial collegiate campaign, finishing second in her debut meet with a jump of 20’-7 ¼” at the Vanderbilt Invitational. She later earned first-team All-America status at the NCAA Indoor Championships, where her mark of 21’-2 ½” was a season-best and was good for sixth in the nation. It also ranks third in South Carolina history.
The Le Havre, France native wasn’t satisfied by her indoor results, and she didn’t slow down as the outdoor season arrived. Instead, Sow continued to re-write the school record books.
I try to use pressure positively to make something good.
She won the Weems Baskin Invitational with a jump of 21’-2 ½”, finished second at the Florida Relays, and then set a new school record at the Spec Towns Invitational by winning the meet with a jump of 22’-0 3/4”. That was the best mark in the world for a three-week period. She later also recorded wins at the USC Open and Penn Relays and earned bronze at the SEC Championships with a leap of 21’-11 ½”. After a great final jump at the NCAA East Regional to qualify for the NCAA Outdoor Championships in Eugene, Ore., Sow finished sixth with a jump of 21’-2” to earn first team All-American honors for the second time.
With all of that early success, Sow believes she can do more.
“When I came here, I just had to start competing,” Sow said. “I didn’t have the [fall] season to train with our coaches. Now that I am here, it gives me more time to prepare. Now I know what I have to expect about the intensity and the levels of competition, so I am more ready mentally and physically to do great this year.”
“They’ve been helping me in all factors,” Sow said. “Physically, I’m doing much better in the weight room and in practice.
“I run a lot, but I don’t like running,” she added with a laugh. “I have to, so I do it. They have taught me how to be like a pro even though I am still an amateur.”
While she has worked hard to be successful in her sport, Sow has also worked hard in the classroom and is now fluent in English.
“My English is better now,” Sow said. “When I first came here, it was hard to understand American English. In France, you have teachers that are from the United Kingdom, so it’s really different.”
A versatile athlete who has enjoyed success in the 60 meter hurdles and the 4x100 meter relay for South Carolina, Sow competed in a lot of different track and field events as a child beginning at the age of 12, which surprisingly included the hammer throw. However, she felt like the long jump was her event.
“Mentally, it’s the event where I feel the best,” Sow said. “You have six attempts to try to do your best. I just love the long jump. Sometimes you fail. Sometimes it doesn’t go well. But the relationships I have with my coaches really help a lot. You have to have speed as a sprinter, and you have to be good technically. It’s a lot of things all at once, so that’s why I like it.
“I try to use pressure positively to make something good. When I go, I think about all the work we’ve been through. I think about all of the people I love. There are a lot of things going through my mind when I compete.”
Sow has competed for France’s National Team, which included a trip to Eugene, Ore., home of the NCAA Outdoor Championships, before she came to South Carolina. She always knew she wanted to come to an American university, and she fell in love with South Carolina on her campus visit.
“When I visited the University, I really enjoyed it,” Sow said. “I knew about the history of track and field at this university, and I knew about Coach Frye. I do a lot of things based on how I feel, and I had a good feeling when I came to visit. I met my teammates and my coaches, and I felt like I was going to do great here.”
Whenever her track and field career is over, Sow would like to work for a non-governmental organization and work to help development in Africa. For now, she has unfinished business – trying to win a national championship and maybe, to jump farther than anyone else in the world.
“That’s definitely my goal this year,” Sow said. “When I first came, it was amazing to see the level of competition. In France, I was one of the best. When I came here, I was amazed. The goal is definitely to be a champion, because that would mean a lot to me and to the University.”
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