VAULTER VAULTER

Steve Hooker struggles with crisis of confidence ahead of Olympic Games

STEVE Hooker has jumped higher than any pole vaulter in history except the world record-holder Sergey Bubka but with two weeks to go to his Olympic title defence, he can’t clear the bar at all.

In his last two meets before the Olympics, Hooker has not been able to clear a height as the crisis of confidence on the runway that he revealed last summer continued.

He failed to clear any of his three attempts at 5.40m (66cm lower than his best) on a damp track at Crystal Palace in London today, running through twice and getting stuck on the pole once, before falling sideways on to the mat.

Hooker calls his condition the “yips”, a golf term that explains a mental block on the putting green, but in Hooker’s case it applies to the pole vault runway.

The Olympic champion appeared to be overcoming his fears when he cleared a Games qualifying height of 5.72m in a specially set up indoor competition at his training facility in Perth, but his international form has been ordinary and he has confronted poor weather conditions virtually everywhere.

He did not clear a height in his first meet in Shanghai, finished sixth with 5.42m in Rome at the end of May, but has struggled even more since then. He said it ” was all a bit out of whack” today, but that he won’t give up.

“It’s a bit of everything, it’s a bit of the weather, it’s how I was feeling on the day, a bit of mental stuff, it’s all a balance,” he said. “It’s hard having all these comps and not getting a result and sitting there watching but it’s the only option really, I”m not giving up on it.”

“I”m going to go out and fight the whole time,” he vowed. “My training hasn’t been bad and I’m physically feeling good. I had a few down weeks early in the season where I was going from comp to comp and the body just wasn’t backing up that well but I feel good physically now and that’s a really good start, that’s the main thing for me. Once that’s there, normally it comes around in the competition.”

As he searches for confidence, Hooker said that continually confronting poor weather conditions was not helping.

“It was hard, it was hard off that warm-up to go off a full approach, but physically I felt good and my short approach stuff was really good and its seems like everything is coming together but it’s just not quite there yet,” he said. “It was tough conditions and everyone struggled and I’m the guy who is probably struggling more than most, so it showed the most.”

Germany’s Bjorn Otto won the competition with a best clearance of 5.74m, but the Olympic gold medal favourite, Renaud Lavillenie of France, finished only fifth (5.40m)

Hooker will compete again in Poland next weekend in a last desperate attempt to find some form before the Olympics.

“It’s just a matter of ticking it over and staying optimistic,” he said. “I’d like to have a good comp next weekend, get a few jumps in and clear a few bars. I’m in a bit better physical shape now than Perth and I just need to figure out my runups for my marks and what I need to have for the Olympics.”

“I’m looking forward to the Olympics as a whole,” he added. “I know there’s still a lot of work I have to do, but there’s still a chance that it will go well. I’m definitely not standing here in the same place I was four years ago. I jumped 5.97 in this competition and it was all there.”

He now has only three weeks to find it again.

But Mitchell Watt has no such problem. Everything is ticking over nicely for him. The world silver medallist has had three competitions since leaving Australia and won them all, improving gradually with each one.

A fourth round leap of 8.28m, his season’s best and only 7cm short of the best jump in the world this year, clinched the victory for Watt at Crystal Palace.

Local hope Chris Tomlinson grabbed second in the last round (8.26m), with Olympic silver medallist Godrey Mokoena third (8.24m) and reigning Olympic champion Irving Saladino sixth (7.87m).

“It’s definitely what I wanted to do,” Watt said. ” I wasn’t going to take my last three jumps but I felt pretty good so I thought I’d make the most of these conditions (there was a tailwind on the long jump runway).’

“In round three, I went down to fourth and it was really good to hit back straight away. The jump after I lost the lead, I took it back again. That sort of head to head stuff is what I was focussing on, as well as getting a decent jump out early. So I felt I ticked all the boxes today.”

Watt had the biggest jump in the world going into last year’s world titles, but was a bit injured by the time he got to Daegu. He feels he’s in a much better position to win the major title this year.

“London today, Monaco next week, the plan was to do two season’s bests, so if I can do another one next weekend and then another one at the Games, that’s exactly what I’m chasing,” he said..

“About three weeks out from Daegu was when things started going pear-shaped and I think three weeks today is when I jump, so I think I”m in a much better position and I have plenty in the tank for three weeks time.”

Distance runner Collis Birmingham delivered his best international performance with an impressive second behind world champion Mo Farah (13:06.04) in the 5000m final.
Birmingham was the only one who went with Farah when he surged in the last lap and was rewarded with a personal best of 13:09.57. His ambition is to reach the final at the Olympics.

by: Nicole Jeffery

from: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/sport/london-games/steve-hooker-struggles-wit-yips-ahead-of-olympic-games/story-fne39yqs-1226425983696

Steve Hooker
Steve Hooker

Leave A Comment