News & Updates

26 October 2023 • Track and Field

Olivier brothers reflect on record-breaking year

Triple jumping brothers Ethan and Welre Olivier have enjoyed an outstanding 2023 and are looking to build on that success next year.

Siblings Welre (pronounced Val-Ray) and Ethan Olivier can look back with immense pride on a memorable 2023 after setting three New Zealand senior records between them.

Based in South Africa, the triple jumping brothers may be out of the immediate spotlight, but their accomplishments should not be ignored as the pair – who were conditionally selected for the 2023 World Athletics Championships – step up their preparations for a place on the New Zealand team for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.

It was back in February when Welre seized the 45-year-old New Zealand men’s triple jump record previously owned by Phil Wood with a 16.48m jump in Potchefstroom. The following month the 20-year-old athlete added a further 11cm on this mark at the same location only for younger brother Ethan to then bound out to a massive 16.67m mark in Brussels in June – and simultaneously set not only the New Zealand senior record but national U20/U19 and U18 marks.

Other highlights for the Olivier siblings came at the South African Championships when Welre posted a huge wind-aided marks of 16.91m (3.0) and Ethan broke the sand at 16.85m (3.0) to offer another tantalisingly glimpse of their exciting ability.

So how would the duo sum up their respective 2023 seasons?

“I was highly satisfied,” said Welre, 20, who lived in New Zealand from between the ages of nine months and seven years before his parents returned to South Africa for family reasons. “The worlds (World Championships) were never my goal. I then got that huge distance at nationals that put me in contention for World Championships. I never made the final team, but I was not too disappointed because the Olympic Games is the longer-term goal. 

Ethan, 18, who was born in New Zealand echoed this same viewpoint adding: “My training programme was geared towards the South African Championships when I later got the news that I was in contention for the World Championships team (both were selected in the initial team dependent on performance conditions that both athletes did not quite meet). We then extended the season and went to Europe, but we were very happy how it went.”

Coached by their father, Wikus, a former South African triple jump record-holder with a best of 16.89m, the duo have physically matured over the past 12 months or so which has allowed them to withstand the impact of one of athletics’ most physically taxing of events.

Ethan in his final year at high school trains at the local high school track while Welre, a student at the University of Potchefstroom, trains in the world-class facilities the university offers – it is a regular winter training base for many elite European-based athletes – before returning home most weekends.

If Welre has state-of-the-art facilities to call upon it is a more basic set up at Overvall High School for Ethan.

“We normally train on a grass track for sprints,” says Ethan. “We do have a tartan (triple jump) run up, but it is not a laid tartan track, just a strip of tartan lying on top of cement. We have no take off board and just put down a cone to indicate where to take off from.”

Training six days a week the pair are still both clearly benefiting from their differing set ups but perhaps the biggest gains are made when training alongside each other, according to Welre.

“It is a big psychological factor knowing your biggest competition is next to me every time I jump,” he says. “So, if Ethan has a good jump, it makes me more determined to get a good jump after him. I know when I go into a competition, I need to be jumping 17.10m because Ethan will be jumping 17m.

Meanwhile Ethan adds: “It is good to be jumping with another very good male jumper because you can gauge how well you are jumping. To have someone of that calibre helps a lot.”

Welre describes himself as the more outgoing of the pair with Ethan “more driven and focused” So what was Welre’s thoughts after his younger siblings dislodged him as New Zealand senior men’s record holder in June?

“I realised a long time ago my records would not stand for much longer,” he explains. “I don’t have too many records left now, but I don’t mind. If they’ve simply changed the first name of the record holder. I’m fine with that.”

Next year the brothers harbour some big ambitions. A spot on the New Zealand team at the Olympic Games in Paris is the primary goal with both brothers potentially competing for a portion of the New Zealand domestic season for the first time. If this, however, does not come to pass, the boys will focus their energies competing in South Africa before embarking on a European tour, although as Welre says of the 2024 Olympics. “It will be nice to get there at the age of 21 and that it can act as a springboard to a possible medal at the LA Games (in 2028). To compete at the Olympic Games is a dream but the bigger dream is to medal at an Olympics.”

Ethan too will be busting a gut to make it to the French capital in August, although he is also hoping to make an impact at the World U20 Championships in Lima, Peru in late August. Aged just 17 at the time he finished fourth at the 2022 edition in Cali, Colombia and is aiming to grab a podium spot on this occasion.

“World under 20s is a big focus because I want a medal this time. It is two or three weeks after Olympics, so the timeframe works to do both,” he adds.

Still very young the pair have much scope to improve, particularly if they continue to become more physically robust. The pair will continue to further their triple jump education by working hard in the gym, focusing on plyometrics and becoming more technically refined.

So, what is it about the event that appeals to the Olivier siblings?

“I like the technical components,” says Ethan “Maybe alongside the pole vault and the hammer throw, triple jump it is one of the most technical events, so I like the challenge of doing an event very few people can do well.”

Welre answers: “To hit a plank and have 13 metres between you and the sand might seem a little crazy but I think you need a little craziness to be a triple jumper. My motivation is to follow in my father’s legacy and be like him.”