Steven Hooker

After Doha Gold the next stop is a traditional Australian 120m foot race

Steven Hooker of Australia celebrates his gold medal in the Pole Vault (Getty Images)Steven Hooker of Australia celebrates his gold medal in the Pole Vault (Getty Images) © Copyright
Steve Hooker’s feet have scarcely touched the ground after his gold medal in the Pole Vault in Doha 2010. Finally back in Perth, he reflects on the achievement and plans an assault on Australia’s oldest and richest handicap sprint.

“Since Doha, it’s mainly been a lot of travel. Back to Melbourne, a day at Falls Creek and back to Perth.

“Now I’ve got the chance to get back into training, then the Stawell Gift and the national championships (Perth, 16-18 April).

“I stopped off in Melbourne for the announcement that I’m running the Stawell Gift and to go up to Falls Creek where my girlfriend (Ekaterina Kostetskeya) has been training. I went for a 5k walk up there: I don’t think that qualifies as ‘altitude training’!

“The Stawell Gift (first run in 1878 and held on the Easter weekend) is about having a bit of fun. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve been there a few times as a spectator, but running it hasn’t worked in with what I want to do in training and competition.

“But with this year’s major competition out of the way, the opportunity to run is there, the timing is good, and I’m pretty excited about it.

“It’s hard to say how it will go. I’m running well with the poles but I don’t know what that’s going to translate to. I ran 10.82 earlier in the season and that was a pretty good run in good conditions, so that is where I’m at - but who knows what my time is going to be like uphill, on grass, over 120 metres.

“One thing in my favour is that I do all my sprint training on grass.

“Then comes the nationals and the Diamond League starts the month after that. So April is going to be a month in which I’ve got to do a lot of work so I’ve got petrol in the tank for the whole year, but I’ve also got a big competition with nationals in Perth which is an opportunity to jump high in a good venue. So it will be a bit of a balancing act.

“Right now, I feel as if I’m in as good shape as at any time in my career. Jumping in Doha I felt as confident as I’ve ever been on the runway and with my jumps. If I can carry that into the outdoor season it’s going to be a lot of fun.

“One thing about Doha was that I was able to keep my focus through a long qualifying competition and the final. You know there’s going to be a bit of mayhem at a world indoor championships, that other events are on very close by and people are going to be walking across the runways in front of you. If you let that get to you, you can have problems; but there’s not a lot you can do about it, so you’ve just got to stay relaxed and focus on what you’re going to do.

“I now believe I have the confidence to clear six metres any time I compete well indoors.

“Outdoors is a bit more tricky; you can’t really achieve the same levels. That takes the level down 10cm or so which is about 5.90. At the moment I feel I can achieve that on a regular basis.

“I felt I really jumped well at 6.01. I jumped on a stiffer pole that I can grip a little higher. I hadn’t cleared a bar on it before. There’s where points on the jump that I could have improved, and if I can put it all together on that pole I can challenge the world record legitimately.

“Doha has given me the confidence that that I can jump on a pole that’s big enough to jump that high (6.15m). I’ve just got to keep my nerve when the bar goes up there.

“I start the Diamond League in Shanghai (May 23), then Oslo  (June 4), New York (June 12), Lausanne (July 7), Paris (July 16), London (August 13) and Brussels (August 27). The first three are close together but after that it’s well spaced out so I can get a decent block of training in.

“It’s a long and tricky year for me, with the Commonwealth Games in October, but with the major championship out of the way already it’s an opportunity to have a bit of fun with it all.

“The relaxed environment should produce better results. I went into the 2009 indoor season with the attitude of enjoying the competition, trying to jump well, and not being too concerned with the outcome. I think that’s the way I’ll be approaching the rest of this year and it should lead to good results.

Steven