Christabel Nettey set to secure berth in Diamond League final following health scare

With her performance slipping and confidence sagging, a reluctant Christabel Nettey had little choice but to listen to her body.

By late June, the Canadian long jumper was exhausted, having extended herself during a mid-season trip to Europe for four competitions in two weeks. She also maintained a busy schedule upon her return that included a season-low jump of 6.21 metres in a victorious performance at the Canadian track and field championships on July 6.

Nettey, who jumped 6.54 two weeks later in London before taking nearly a month off, will return to England for Birmingham's Müller Grand Prix on Saturday (CBCSports.ca, 9 a.m. ET) in hopes of securing enough points to earn a spot for the Diamond League final later this month.

"For me, and I'm sure for most athletes, it's hard to accept your body needs rest," the 27-year-old from Surrey, B.C., said in a phone interview this week. "I wasn't jumping well, struggling with simple execution and couldn't figure out why.

"I thought I needed to push harder, get in the weight room, and that was the battle I was in. But my body was telling me to slow down."

Nettey wondered if she was suffering from burnout and would have to call it quits for 2018 after her eighth-place showing at London Stadium. She returned to Phoenix for rest and minimal training with Stu McMillan, her third coach in two years, and received treatment for overall body soreness.

Nettey slowly worked her way back to the runway and jumping at practice, which she hadn't done since before the Canadian championships in Ottawa. Former coach Dan Pfaff also paid her a visit to work on sprint mechanics and takeoff positions.

"When I finally gave in, [rested] and started to see [the benefits] it was like, 'Ok, I'm back in a rhythm now, do what your body allows and don't push it,'" said Nettey, who will compete Saturday at 9:52 a.m. ET at Alexander Stadium. "I've had great practices the past two weeks and my confidence is back to where it was earlier in the season. I'm excited to compete."

Coming off a solid indoor season — her first in three years — Nettey excelled to start the outdoor season. She won her first three competitions, including a season-high 6.92 jump in Brisbane and a gold medal two weeks later on the Gold Coast of Australia at the Commonwealth Games.

In all, Nettey won seven of 11 outdoor events this year. But in retrospect, the 2016 Olympian says she became "over eager" with the excitement of competing well, didn't receive treatment in Europe and watched her body shut down.

"I'm glad it happened at that point in the season, so I could recognize it and change things," Nettey said. "It'll help for planning what [workload] I am able to handle. I'm just grateful that I didn't get injured."

In Diamond League final position

A strong showing Saturday should allow Nettey to rise above or at least maintain her seventh-place standing as the top eight advance to the Diamond League final on Aug. 30 at Weltklasse Zürich in Switzerland, where the Canadian placed fifth (6.46) three years ago in her Diamond League final debut.

Sprinter Gavin Smellie and six other Canadians are competing at Birmingham:

Johnathan Cabral, men's 110m hurdles (final at 10:06 a.m. ET): The 25-year-old from Peribonka, Que., appeared headed for the podium at last week's NACAC championships but finished sixth (14.07) after qualifying first for the final. Cabral, whose season best is 13.34, has four wins this year, including a Canadian title.

Matt Hughes, men's 3,000 steeplechase (9:33 a.m. ET): Hughes, 29, skipped the NACAC championships to rest for Birmingham, where he will enter Saturday's race 10th in the Diamond League standings, with the top 12 advancing. The five-time Canadian champion was fourth (season-best 8:12.33) at the Commonwealth Games in April.

Mike Mason, men's high jump (9:18 a.m. ET): The three-time Olympian from Nanoose Bay, B.C., has been in top form this season and is fresh off a 2.28-metre jump for a silver medal at NACAC championships. Mason, 31, jumped 2.32 in May at Victoria, just shy of his 2.33 personal best, set in 2015 at Edmonton. He is 20th in the Diamond League standings, having competed only at Monaco in July.

Brandon McBride, men's 800 (10:34 a.m. ET): The Canadian-record holder sits one point behind Jake Wightman of Great Britain for the eighth and final spot in Diamond League final qualifying. McBride, who edged Edmonton's Marco Arop for gold at the NACAC championships, has reached the podium at four of six events in 2018.

Gabriela Stafford, women's 1,500 (9:22 a.m. ET): Birmingham will mark the Diamond League season debut for the 22-year-old University of Toronto psychology major. Stafford clocked 4:07.36 at the NACAC championships, one month after capturing her third consecutive Canadian championship. She ran a season-best 4:05.83 on June 2 in Nashville.

Sage Watson, women's 400 hurdles (9:03 a.m. ET): Watson, of Medicine Hat, Alta., last raced a month ago, placing eighth in 56.21 seconds, nearly two seconds slower than her season-best 54.55 recorded on June 7 at the Bislett Games in Oslo, Norway. The 24-year-old rookie professional was fifth at the Commonwealth Games.