The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

First-year Iowa track and field jumper Daniela Wamokpego comes from France to make school history

Wamokpego finds herself at the top of Hawkeye record boards during her first season competing in the U.S.
Cody Blissett
University of Iowa jumper Daniela Martine Wamokpego jumps in the triple jump during the second day of the Larry Wieczorek invitational at the Hawkeye Indoor Track Facility on Saturday, Jan. 20, 2024. Wamokpego placed first overall in the triple jump premier.

As a middle schooler living in Meaux, France, Daniela Wamokpego was cut from the basketball team and forced to try a new sport. After taking advice from her former basketball coach, she tried track and field — and never turned back.

Now, Wamokpego is a first-year Iowa track and field jumper who can’t imagine her life without the sport.

At her first track and field practice, the team was tasked with a warm-up jog. Wamokpego recalls the run as an almost out-of-body experience that changed her life’s trajectory.

“During the 10-minute warm-up, I had never felt so free,” Wamokpego said. “It was like a big liberation.”

In France, Wamokpego focused primarily on individual growth, as she did not form many close relationships with teammates or view track and field as a team sport, beyond her own achievements.

So, it came as a shock when Wamokpego was told Iowa’s top priority is team placement. After adjusting to the team aspect of the sport, she now believes it is the best part of competing.

“It was strange at first,” Wamokpego said. “But it’s more encouraging to do it for more people.”

Wamokpego is still making a name for herself individually, too.

In the Black and Gold, Wamokpego has earned two Big Ten Athlete of the Week honors and captured a school record in the triple jump. Her best performance of 13.24 meters is second in the Big Ten, giving her an ideal ranking going into the Big Ten Indoor Championships from Feb. 23-24.

Hadrien Choukroun, Iowa’s assistant track and field coach specializing in jumps and combined events who also hails from France, indicated these honors and rankings can be confusing to international students — yet still a source of accomplishment.

“I think she does appreciate it because in a lot of countries you don’t get recognized for a lot of things,” Choukroun said. “I think it makes her confident going into the [Big Ten Championship] meet.”

To continue improving upon her top marks, Wamokpego will need to step out of her comfort zone and persevere through tough workouts.

“To be honest, I don’t like practice, and I don’t like to work,” Wamokpego admitted. “But I love competing.”

Looking forward to meets remains Wamokpego’s main motivation — along with helping her team get closer to winning titles.

But the Hawkeyes aren’t just getting to know her as an athlete. Despite the language barrier, Wamokpego’s infectious personality never fails to shine through. Her passion for her home country has even rubbed off on her teammates.

“The amount of people on the team speaking French now is crazy,” Choukroun said. “I like how she’s getting invested in American culture, but she loves her own culture and won’t let it go.”

Wamokpego continues to add to the team as the Hawkeyes conclude their indoor track and field season. During the conference and national championship meets, she plans to continue competing against the best of the best — and having a good time doing it.

“Everyone wants to be the best and wants to win first place,” Wamokpego said. “I just try to have fun.”

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About the Contributors
Mia Boulton
Mia Boulton, Sports Reporter
Mia Boulton is a freshman at the University of Iowa majoring in Journalism & Mass Communication, as well as exploring a possible double major in Sports Media. She works at the Daily Iowan as a sports reporter. Outside of the Daily Iowan, Mia has been a photographer for her hometown newspaper, The Record.
Cody Blissett
Cody Blissett, Visuals Editor
Cody Blissett is a visual editor at The Daily Iowan. He is a third year student at the University of Iowa studying cinema and screenwriting. This is his first year working for The Daily Iowan.