A leap of faith: How Fleur Jong’s mental strength helped her discover her love for the long jump

Jong’s resiliency in the face of adversity ultimately led to her recent streak of record-breaking performances

Fleur Jong grew up with a passion for dance, easily expressing herself through graceful movements of her tall frame. Throughout her years studying the sport, she acquired the skills needed to compete at a national level, which encouraged her athleticism and ambition.  


At age 16, however, everything changed. Jong contracted a bacterial blood infection that ultimately resulted in the amputation of both of her legs below the knee, as well as eight of her fingertips. Within a matter of weeks, her dancing days were over. 


As Jong began navigating a different way of life, she could not deny the persistent desire for activity and competition, so she began exploring the world of track and field. She took up sprinting in 2013 and made her international debut two years later, representing the Netherlands in the 100 meters and 200 meters. As her experience competing grew, so did her understanding of her new community.  


“Paralympic athletes are parallel to Olympic athletes — that’s what ‘para’ actually means. It has nothing to do with disabilities, but rather about pushing boundaries,” she said. “Many Para-athletes have fought battles even before they’ve entered competitive elite sports.” 



Fleur Jong | Unwavering Will

Despite the challenges Jong herself had already overcome, she encountered another obstacle in 2018 when she underwent major surgery to eliminate ongoing pain in her left stump. The operation ended up being more extensive than originally planned, and her stump was slow to heal. At one point during her recovery, she did not even know if she would ever walk normally again. 


Faced with this troubling reality, Jong considered retiring from athletics. However, she reminded herself of the significant progress that could come from incremental change, a process she had experienced when recovering from her first surgical procedure and training on the track.


“The mental strength and resilience I have built throughout the years has helped me to always see a light at the end of the tunnel. After hitting rock bottom with my surgery and recovery, I knew the only way was up, but I had to give myself the time to grieve before embracing the challenge to get back to walking and eventually running again.”

Fleur Jong

After a year of intense rehabilitation, Jong returned to the track pain free and inspired to tackle something new. She gave the long jump a try and immediately connected with the event’s sequence of movements — run, step, take off — which resembled the flow of dance choreography.  


Just one month after she began training for the event, Jong broke the T62 long jump world record. While her quick mastery surprised many in the track and field community, she realized that she had a natural talent for jumping all along.  


“Watching old footage of me dancing, it seems I have always been a jumper — I was still up in the air when everyone else from my dance team was already on their way down,” she said. “The feeling for timing is just in my body.”


In May 2021, Jong became the first T62 female athlete to surpass a six-meter long jump. At this year’s World Para Athletics European Championships in June, she established a new world record in both the women’s T64 100 meters and women’s T64 long jump events, setting the long jump record twice with her fifth and sixth attempts (6.04 and 6.06 meters, respectively). A week later, she set the long jump world record yet again with a 6.09-meter performance at the Netherlands’ Gouden Spike competition.  


Despite her success in both the 100 meters and the long jump, Jong will mostly focus on jumping in competition this summer. 


“It’s a Paralympic year, so everyone is on their A-game,” she said. “But the Paralympic Games aren’t as old as the Olympic Games yet, so there are still so many more historic performances to create.” 


Given Jong’s recent accomplishments, she will likely be one of those very performances, using the physical and mental strength she has developed over the years to continue making her mark on international sport.


Fleur Jong

Fleur Jong