VAULTER VAULTER

Yip Yip hooray! Hooker hitting heights after curing problem

Only the great Sergey Bubka has jumped higher than Steve Hooker. The Australian is one of only 17 men to have cleared six metres in the pole vault but the 29-year-old is rebuilding his career after a case of the yips that looked set to threaten his bid to defend his Olympic title in London and, more worryingly, his career as a whole.

Where once he was surprised not to win every competition, quite suddenly he was anxious about setting off down the runway with pole in hand.

“It’s hard to explain what happened but basically I got injured midway through 2010,” he says. “Then I tried to rush training and rush back for 2011 but that was counter-productive.

“My take-off knee had tendonitis and other issues with it. So coming back from that was hard because, if you’re not confident, that’s half the game.

“It’s not something like the long jump where you can just jump. It’s more physically involved and potentially dangerous in the pole vault. If you don’t have confidence where you’re going to take off, you’ve already lost it on the runway. That can be difficult.”

The rebuilding process has been a long and painstaking one. The fear has gone — “I never give it a thought”, he says following a “back-to-basics” approach. But the only problem with his argument the yips have gone is that he has failed to have the results to back up that argument.

Last weekend, he failed with two attempts at 5.50metres and, in a final throw of the dice, went for a solitary jump at 5.60m which also brought down the bar. His highest clearance outdoors in 2012 is 5.42m.

He has a chance to make amends tonight at the Aviva London Grand Prix against a field that includes Hooker’s tip to replace him as Olympic champion, Renaud Lavillenie, of France.

“Results haven’t been where I’d want them to be,” he says. “Things in training have been coming along and I’m feeling better as I get closer to the Games. I just haven’t had my rhythm in competitions.”

Hooker cleared 5.72m to qualify for the Australian Olympic team earlier this year and believes that 5.70m will be enough to qualify for the pole vault final. But he warned that a jump of 5.90m would be required at the very least to aspire to a medal.

He admits it may not happen to him this season and understandably he is not sure if he’ll ever get back to the stage where he dominated the discipline. “It’s not the big heights that are the problem really,” he says.

“It sounds strange but it’s sometimes the lower heights that are the issue. By the time it gets up to the high heights I’m feeling pretty good. But I’m training now to get back to those heights.”

In a bid to get back to the top, his sponsor Red Bull built a state-of-the-art facility for him in Perth and he admits that “without them and the way they believed in me, I wouldn’t even be at the Olympics”. For now, Hooker is making no predictions about his performances except for “just trying to get the best out of myself”.

Hooker believes Londoners could have reason to celebrate in the pole vault in the form of Holly Bleasdale, the 20-year-old British record holder.

He says: “She has the potential to claim a medal and has great potential. But expectations need to be balanced because Holly is still really young and the pole vault is so much about experience.”

by: Matt Majendie

from: http://www.standard.co.uk/olympics/athletics/yip-yip-hooray-hooker-hitting-heights-after-curing-problem-7941596.html

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