Larissa Iapichino’s face said it all: hands on her head and mouth agape, it was the look of someone who could scarcely believe what she had just achieved.
Even now, two-and-a-half months on from her jump at the Italian Indoor championships, the 18-year-old struggles to explain how she felt as she set a new junior indoor world record and equaled the Italian indoor record. “I can’t describe it. It was somehow like I had this blackout and then I realized everything, and it was like: Wow,” Iapichino tells CNN Sport. The 18-year-old’s leap of 6.91 meters in February also carried personal significance. Iapichino’s mother, two-time Olympic silver medalist Fiona May, is the only Italian to jump the same distance indoors. The two now share a space in the country’s long jump record books, but that’s not to say May is at all concerned about ceding records to her daughter.
“She was at the competition,” says Iapichino. “She came up to me and said: ‘You could have done 6.92m.’ And I was like: ‘Mom?!’ “She was so happy for me. And she doesn’t mind if one day I will break her records […] she always pushes me to try my best.” Iapichino is now preparing to compete at the Tokyo Olympics later this year. Her mother, who was born in Britain but competed for Italy after marrying former pole vaulter Gianni Iapichino, has already passed on a few words of advice having competed at five Olympics during her career.
“She said that you need to be there and feel the emotions, to feel the atmosphere that is typical of the Olympic Games,” says Iapichino. “She couldn’t describe it to me. She said you need to feel it on your own skin. “I sometimes watch my mom’s videos. It’s so strange seeing my mom as an athlete because all my life, I saw her as my mother, as the one who tells me to do homework, to not go to bed late. “But she was a legend — and she is a legend here in Italy — and this makes me really proud of her.” Named after Larisa Berezhnaya, a former long jumper competing for the USSR and Ukraine and May’s rival during the 1990s, it might seem like Iapichino was always destined to take up the sport herself. But after starting her sporting life as a gymnast and despite her family background, long jump never seemed like an obvious choice. “When I started athletics, I hated long jump, it was my worst event,” Iapichino says.