OFF the runway Paul Burgess has been playing in a band with no name while Steve Hooker has given up his day job as a property developer. The pole-vaulting pair’s preparations for the world athletics championships have contrasted greatly and not just away from their sport.

Burgess has hardly missed a training session and feels strong as he approaches his first world championships this August. While he has been an Olympian he has missed the past five world championships because of non-selection or injury, and hopes an opportunity at Osaka will bring him a medal.

“It’s just been one thing after the other, and this year I really want to get there,” Burgess said.

Meanwhile, Hooker has spent the past few months rehabilitating knee and ankle injuries with help from the West Coast Eagles medical team. He hopes these niggles don’t stop him getting through this European season.

The 2006 world No.1 has also changed his technique but doesn’t expect the adjustments to pay off too soon. “They are the sort of things I have wanted to change for a little while,” Hooker said. “I looked at this preparation as a chance to do that.”

The pair will jet off for Europe today for their first meet in Germany on Saturday. Both are aiming for a consistent season before they return to their Perth base before the Osaka world titles.

Burgess, who finished last year as world No.2, feels his training has put him in a good place.

“I’ve had a pretty uninterrupted preparation,” he said. “I feel pretty ready to go over there, and I feel in pretty good shape.

“I just want to get myself ready for world champs. Of course I want to win all these [European] comps. The main thing is world champs, and I guess I can’t take my eye off the prize, which is hopefully a medal there.”

For Hooker, it’s been a troublesome few months with tendonitis in his knee, while trying to finetune his vaulting technique, adjusting his grip, shortening his run-up and working on his pole swing. “I’m expecting my results to probably not be necessarily as consistent as last year,” he said. “But [I’m] working towards a higher level of consistency overall towards the world champs and Olympics.

“Hopefully, I am going to jump higher, that is the aim over the next few years and the reason for making these changes.”

The other change Hooker made was giving up work to focus on Osaka and the Beijing Olympics. “I would have liked to have continued work,” he said. “But I felt like the next 18 months were a real opportunity – I think it’s rare that you get to approach an Olympics or world championships when you are right at the top of your game, and I still felt like that I had a lot of things I could improve on, so I thought I would be cheating myself if I didn’t give that a go.”

Burgess has a guitar stored in Europe to practise his country tunes, but it’s clear he’s aiming higher. “I’m hoping for [consistency], that I go in knowing I can jump 5.80, 5.85 and possibly higher. And that gives me the best chance of getting a medal.”

Paul Burgess
Paul Burgess

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