Steven Hooker

Berlin gold a new benchmark for Steven Hooker

Steven Hooker of Australia celebrates winning the gold medal in the men's Pole Vault final at the 12th IAAF World Championships in Athletics (Getty Images)Steven Hooker of Australia celebrates winning the gold medal in the men's Pole Vault final at the 12th IAAF World Championships in Athletics (Getty Images) © Copyright

Steve Hooker drew on the past and discovered something for the future in winning the World Championships Pole Vault despite an adductor injury. He reflects on his performance and how he turned the situation around.

“If I can run down on one injured leg and one healthy leg and do three jumps of the quality I did in the world championships, then I know when I’m fully healthy I can do a lot more than that.

“I’m very satisfied with what I did and the way I did it. It taught me a new way of approaching the event. I always seemed to need to work my way into a competition and fine-tune as I went - it’s not easy to do fantastic jumps early. If you really focus and think about the technical aspects you need to achieve you can do it with every jump, you don’t have to have lower-quality jumps early in the competition.

“I remember hearing how Maksim Tarasov opened at 5.90 in the Berlin Golden League meeting (in 1999: Tarasov won with 6.01). I was totally in awe, and still am. It’s one of the legends of pole vault.

“Jeff Hartwig (who was second with 5.94) told me no-one could focus on their own jumping. They knew Maksim was passing to 5.90 and were waiting to see if he could do it.

“Maksim was extremely consistent technically, and he would (be able to) do that. I would never have thought I could.

“So that’s how I see Berlin, as a benchmark for something happening in the competition.

“My coach, Alex Parnov, took Dmitri Markov to a gold medal in Edmonton in 2001. Dmitri stubbed his toe badly the night after the qualifying competition and was in doubt for the final.

“I remember watching that with some of my mates at home. Then, hearing about it from people involved - the physio, Alex, the massage therapist - it was a real group effort to get him up.

“It was the same with me. What I took from it was that I had to listen to everyone, do everything I was advised to do and not leave any doubt I’d done everything possible to get back to competition shape. Also that you can still get a fantastic result when something like that happens.

“For the first 48-72 hours after the injury, I didn’t have treatment as much as icing. You don’t get to sleep because every two hours your alarm goes off- you get up, take the compression bandages off, ice, and put the bandages back on.

“Then it was aggressive treatment and rehabilitation: most of the time I was thinking, ‘this isn’t going to work’.

“After being able to do just one jump (5.65) in qualifying, I decided to come into the final at 5.85. I’ve never gone into a competition with a strategy that aggressive. It puts additional pressure on you - in those situations you can do things you don’t think you’re capable of.

“After missing 5.85 I was thinking, ‘I’ve blown it, I’m not going to be able to do another jump’. I tried to stay composed: I still wanted to win, and to win I had to be able to jump some more. I tried to be rational, (to) really see how everything felt, go through that process again and see if it was possible to jump.

 “In one way I’m pretty comfortable that I won - that was a goal I set myself at the beginning: but the way it unfolded and the way I had to compete and prepare myself for that last few days made it a very different experience. I can’t believe the lengths that I had to go to just to get it done.

“I wanted to compete in the World Athletics Final, but when I tried to get back to training my adductor was quite sore and I felt quite sick. I was diagnosed with ‘flu and there was a risk of further injury. It seemed the smartest thing was to call the season.

“I felt like I had taken one big risk with my body already and got through. I really didn’t want to play that game again.

“So I’ve been re-habbing, having active rest, riding a bike all over the place. I’ve just spent two weeks cycling in Spain. Barcelona is one place I’ve always wanted to go to. It’s an amazing city.
 
“I head back to Australia next month. It will be almost six weeks since worlds and I’ve done nothing to re-aggravate the injury in that time, so I should be well and truly healed and ready, willing and able to get back into training.”

Steven