Pole vaulter Steve Lewis proves to be Commonwealth king in excellent year

HIGH-flying Steve Lewis came through the toughest two years of his life to finally gain a well-deserved major championship gold medal.

The Light Oaks pole vaulter had a difficult time in and out of athletics since finishing fifth at the London Olympics and setting a new British record in 2012.

He has had to come to terms with the death of his mum Linda to cancer in October of that year aged just 57.

Then he controversially lost his central funding from UK Athletics in October 2013, despite maintaining his long-term record as the country’s number one.

He was told that, at the age of 27, he no longer met the strict criteria as a future Olympic medal hope.

The former Holden Lane High School pupil was unbowed and returned to action in 2014 showing he could still compete with the very best in the world.

He cleared 5.71m indoors in the United States before retaining his British title and finishing third in the Sainsbury’s Anniversary Games.

But his biggest chance for real glory was always going to rest on his performance on one night in Glasgow at the Commonwealth Games.

He already had two Commonwealth medals; a bronze from Melbourne in 2006 and a silver from Delhi in 2010. This was the year he was tipped to complete the set.

His date with destiny came on Friday, August 1, when wind and rain made for awful conditions and the title went down to a two-way fight between Lewis and fellow Englishman Luke Cutts.

Their clearance record was identical when they both failed three attempts at 5.60m, meaning the top medal was decided by a tense jump off.

Cutts knocked the bar down at 5.55m and Lewis kept his cool to take the crown.

“The end of 2012 was really tough for me and in 2013 I was running on nothing and was emotionally drained,” he said.

“I just had to try to focus – and to get the win feels so good.

“Getting the set of medals was a big goal – 2006 was such a surprise, I got close in Delhi and to have the set is amazing. It’s testament to the people who didn’t write me off in 2013.”

Lewis has been nominated as a senior individual in the Sentinel/City of Stoke-on-Trent Sports Personality of the Year Awards by his old PE teacher Neil Gilson.

It was Gilson who had encouraged the promising gymnast to take up the sport when he was 12.

“He was a brilliant gymnast and I wanted him to utilise those skills with the pole,” he explained.

“We only had one 5ft pole of solid steel for him to have a go for the first time (at Holden Lane) and he could stand it in the sand. Health and safety people would have a fit now!

“That was his introduction and he went on to grow at City of Stoke-on-Trent Athletics Club and become the star we know today – and he remains the nicest lad you could meet.

“He has been so dedicated to the sport. He wanted to achieve something really well and he hasn’t stopped. To come through those two years and win gold was tremendous.

“I am so pleased for him. The whole city can be really proud.”


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