'Hooker able to get back to best'

Steve Hooker
Steve Hooker

OLYMPICS: Steve Hooker was jumping for joy after clearing 5.96m to win the pole vault gold medal at the Beijing Olympics.

Now he can barely jump.

The Beijing effort made him the first male Australian track and field gold medallist in 40 years, the previous being Ralph Doubell who won the 800m in Mexico City.

It seemed as though the sky was the limit for the red-headed Victorian.

The Olympic record was followed by more gold at the 2009 World Championships in Berlin, the 2010 World Indoor Championships where he cleared 6.01m, then the Commonwealth Games in the same year.

But with the defence of his Olympic crown starting in less than eight weeks, Hooker's recent performances suggest he is facing a crisis of confidence.

It seemed he wouldn't even qualifying for London, but at a specially convened "competition" in an abandoned railway station in Perth last month, he managed to clear the required height of 5.72m.

Since then he hasn't got near that mark, most attempts finishing with him simply running under the bar without even planting the pole.

The most recent of those was in Lille yesterday where he cleared 5.42m, 40cm lower than the winner, Frenchman Renaud Lavillenie.

Despite his woes, dual Australian Olympic pole vault representative Ray Boyd said he was optimistic Hooker could regain his best form in time for a tilt at gold in London.

"All pole vaulters get in that same situation Steve is in ... although generally it doesn't last as long," Boyd, the father of national women's pole vault record holder Alana, said.

" It certainly happened to me. You get the heebie-jeebies, but generally it's just like rebooting a computer."

Boyd said he had spoken to Hooker earlier this year about his problems.

"At the time he wasn't sure where he was headed. I told him, 'let Alex (coach Alex Parnov) do the worrying, you just do the jumping'," Boyd said.

"I think he's actually close. It might just take someone he admires, standing by the runway and saying, 'C'mon Steve, you can do it'."

With five meets to go before the Games, Boyd said it was far too early to write off the Olympic champion.

"If he can jump 5.7m before he goes to London he could jump well into the 5.90m range and be in contention for a medal. I wouldn't bet against him."

Topics:  london olympics, pole vault, steve hooker



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