08/27/2015 00:58 EDT | Updated 08/26/2016 01:12 EDT

Canada's Nettey taking aim at a medal in long jump at the world championships

BEIJING — Canada's Cristabel Nettey was overwhelmed when she began training among some of track and field's biggest stars at Altis in Phoenix.

Now she's on her way to becoming one of them.

The 24-year-old from Surrey, B.C., whose meteoric rise in long jump this season has taken her to a No. 2 ranking, is through to the final at the world track and field championships.

Nettey credits her coach Dan Pfaff and the environment at Altis — formerly the World Athletic Centre — with her rise through the ranks.

"Last year I was star-struck because everybody (at Altis) was some sort of champion," Nettey said. "It's nice, to see their work ethic, to just be put in with them. . ."

Nettey jumped 6.79 metres on her third of three jumps on Thursday morning, the fourth-best jump in qualifying.

Ivana Spanovic was the top qualifier with 6.79.

American Brittney Reese, the three-time defending world champion and Olympic gold medallist, failed to qualify with a best jump of 6.39. Reese has been dealing with a back injury.  

Nettey is ranked second in the world behind American Tianna Bartoletta, who jumped 6.71 on Thursday — seventh-best.

The Canadian has two of the four best jumps in the world this year, including her Canadian record 6.99 set at the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Ore., in May.

This is her second season working with Pfaff, who has tutored nearly 50 Olympians in his career including star sprinter Donovan Bailey.  

"Last year I really learned a lot, I was basically the only (long jump) athlete under my coach at the time," she said. "So I really got a lot of one on one time and this year I'm just really just putting it all together."

Nettey grew up competing alongside her sister Sabrina, who's older by a year-and-a-half.

The sisters made the Canadian team for the 2007 world youth championships together. Nettey won a relay bronze and was eighth in the 100 metres and 14th in the long jump. Sabrina made the semifinals in the 100.

Nettey says her sister still competes, but mainly just for fun.

The rising long jump star is part of a young Canadian track and field team that is poised for its best world championships ever. Canada has four medals: gold from pole vaulter Shawn Barber, Brianne Theisen-Eaton's silver in the heptathlon, and bronze from Andre De Grasse in the 100 metres and Ben Thorne in the 20-kilometre race walk.

"I'm proud of my teammates," Nettey said. "For a bit it did suck because you're just waiting, still training and everyone's kind of tapering off, so it's nice to come out here . . . I woke up this morning and thought 'Oh my gosh, it's today.' It's nice."




Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press