CHAMPION pole vaulter Steve Hooker’s Olympic title defence is back on the rails after he cleared the Olympic qualifying height of 5.72m in competition in Perth.

It was a welcome return for the Australian team captain, who withdrew from the domestic season in February, admitting to a crisis of confidence on the pole vault runway which had given him the “yips” when he faced the bar.

Since then Hooker has gone back to basics in training and rebuilt his technique and his confidence.

This competition represents a significant step forward as he strives to return to the top of the sport in time for the London Olympics.

He opened his Olympic campaign with a second attempt clearance of 5.52m, before soaring over 5.62m on his first try and 5.72m on the second attempt.

“I’m very, very relieved but at the same time so damn excited,” he said.
Rec Coverage 28 Day pass

“For a while there I thought I was a shoo-in to make London and losing that certainty and having to fight like I have to get back was a challenge I didn’t see coming. It is something that I am just stoked to have gotten over.

“It has been months and months of jumps, jumps and more jumps thousands of jumps, seriously to be back at this level. We stripped it right back to basics, made a real effort to get the things that were letting me down right and from there begun the process of building my heights up.”

Hooker will now prepare to return to international competition in the second round of the Diamond League in Shanghai next week.

“This is great, but it is only one thing on the road to London,” he said.

“I now need to get into the rhythm of competing again, and doing that in conditions where not all the variables are controlled. That’s why I’m looking forward to Shanghai and then Europe as it will be where I can continue to develop before the Games in situations that are out of my power and against athletes that will challenge me the whole way to London.”

Meanwhile, national 1500m record-holder Ryan Gregson all but confirmed his place in the Olympic team as he ran his fastest time in almost two years, 3:33.92, at the opening Diamond League event in Doha.

In the fastest race in the world since 2010, Gregson was 11th across the finish line, behind seven Kenyans, four of whom won’t be able to compete at the Olympics because of the three-per-nation limit. Thirteen men in total bettered the Olympic qualifying standard of 3:35.50.

Silas Kiplagat triumphed in 3:29.63, taking advantage of Olympic champion Asbel Kiprop, who finished second in a personal best of 3:29.78, despite stumbling when Kiplagat almost tripped him up in the final kickdown to the finish.

A foot injury stymied Gregson’s progress after he set the national record of 3:31.06 in Monaco in mid-2010, but the promising 22-year-old finally appears to be returning to the level that would make him a contender at the Olympics.

Throwers Benn Harradine and Kim Mickle also made solid starts to their international campaigns in Doha.

Fresh from a national discus record of 67.53m in Townsville last week, Harradine could not quite find the same power but finished a respectable fifith with a best throw of 64.29m. Fellow world championships finalist Mickle was sixth in the women’s javelin with a best of 60.87m.

Meanwhile, 37-year-old Jamaican Brigitte Foster-Hylton continues to shape as Sally Pearson’s biggest obstacle in the battle for the 100m hurdles gold medal in London, backing up her 12.51sec performance in Jamaica last week with a big win in Doha in 12.60sec.

World champion Pearson still leads the world rankings narrowly (12.49sec) but Foster-Hylton, who preceded the Australian as world champion, has certainly stepped up this year.

By Nicole Jeffery
From http://www.theaustralian.com.au/sport/london-games/steve-hooker-relieved-and-excited-at-his-return-to-form/story-e6frgdg6-1226354085193

Steve Hooker

Leave A Comment