Gators at Olympics: Yanis David ready to jump into the next step on world stage

Noah Ram
Special to The Sun
Yanis David leaps to the pit during the women's long jump at the Drake Relays athletics meet, Saturday, April 24, 2021, in Des Moines, Iowa.

Athletes like Yanis David often don’t make it to this moment.

The former UF track star comes from Guadeloupe, a French colony in the Caribbean near the Virgin Islands. The small collection of islands total just 629 square miles, smaller than Alachua County. Its population of under 400,000 ranks as fewer than half the size of Jacksonville.

Florida assistant coach Nic Peterson first “discovered” a 15-year-old David at a race in Bermuda.

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She arrived in Gainesville and completed an historic career, becoming only the second woman in SEC history to complete the horizontal sweep (SEC Tournament wins in indoor and outdoor long jump and triple jump).

Now, David awaits the next challenge on the other side of the world when she suits up for the French National Team to compete in the long jump at the Tokyo Olympics 2021.

David’s transition to American life began slowly, more like a jog than a sprint. She spoke little English when she arrived at UF.

“The first couple of months were really hard,” she said. “It was my first time being away from family, and I did cry a lot.”

David’s teammates and coaches helped her become more acclimated, evolving into her second family.

Before long, she started fulfilling the task Florida brought her to complete: Dominate on the track.

Her list of accolades run longer than the notes a college student takes for a semester-long class.

David established herself as the most dominant horizontal jumper in Florida history, winning NCAA Championships in indoor triple jump and outdoor long jump.

She ended her career as the only woman to land on the top 10 all-time list in outdoor long jump and triple jump. She took home the 2019 Honda Award and concluded as a finalist for the Bowerman Award, eventually won by LSU’s Sha’Carri Richardson.

An Olympic spot was hers to lose. She obtained one in both long jump and triple jump by reaching the standard in 2019.

She ultimately decided not to compete in the triple jump, saying she always put the event on the backburner after multiple injuries.

“This year, I tried to double at French champs, and it didn’t go well, so I knew I had to just focus on the long,” she said.

The lead-up to Tokyo has been anything but smooth for David. Currently, she is in Kobe, about 325 miles south of the host city, for a French training camp.

Despite less COVID restrictions in Kobe, the training camp is enforcing similar rules to what athletes see in the Olympic Village.

“We’re not allowed to interact with other people in the hotel,” she said. “We get tested every day, and there are only certain times we can leave.”

If an Olympian tests positive, they cannot compete in their event.

No French athlete has tested positive so far, according to David.

On July 30, David will finally reach Tokyo. Due to her late arrival, she missed the Opening Ceremony on Friday evening.

“It’s such a bummer, I was really looking forward to it,” she said. “Plus, we have to leave 48 hours after our competition, so I am missing Grant’s (Holloway) race.”

David said she’s looking forward to seeing her Florida teammates in the Olympic Village, but doesn’t know what interaction organizers will allow.

“It is very good  to have those familiar faces in an abnormal Olympics,” she said.

David knows when she takes the track next week in Tokyo, with thousands watching, UF helped her to this moment.

“The training program was amazing,” she said. “We were ready not just for national, but international competitions. The bigger the moment, the more I feel ready.”

Her big day commences July 31 from the Japan National Stadium. The long jump final transpires from the same site Aug. 2.