Steven Hooker

Looking forward to new stadium in Perth

Steve Hooker beats the rain in Melbourne (Getty Images)Steve Hooker beats the rain in Melbourne (Getty Images) © Copyright
Steve Hooker’s adopted city of Perth is getting a new athletics stadium at Mount Claremont, a boon for the whole sport and offering an even better facility for Alex Parnov’s elite squad of vaulters than the old one at Perry Lakes, the 1962 British Commonwealth Games venue. The new venue will host the 2010 Australian championships and Commonwealth Games selection trials on 16-18 April next.

"Hopefully this new stadium will help retain kids from Little Athletics all the way through and help the sport continue to have a resurgence in WA.

"It’s the first time we’ve had an athletics track in WA which has had lights, so it can host twilight and night competition which we couldn’t do over here before. That will fit in well with the hot summer weather.

"As a venue, it is fantastic. There is a 2000-seat grandstand (named after Shirley Strickland; there is also a Herb Elliott Drive within the centre), and room for another 8000 spectators around the grass embankments. It will be a great venue for competitions like the national championships , which are also going to be the New Delhi Commonwealth Games selection trials, and for future meetings of the domestic grand prix series.

"Next year’s national championships will be the first in Perth since 1988 (which were the Seoul Olympic selection trials). Hopefully, it means a new life for athletics in WA. The old stadium, while it was an OK facility for vaulters, pretty much for any other event was a difficult one to compete in and train.

"Perry Lakes was great for pole vault. Paul Burgess and I both cleared six metres there, the Australian all-comers’ record, Emma George set three world records and Brad Walker cleared 5.92.

"The vault facility at the new stadium is going to be even better. They’ve aligned the track to coincide with the prevailing wind, which is south to south-west, so I think it’s going to be even better than the old facility.

"It’s a Mondo surface, so it should be faster on the runway. The main track was cinders for the 1962 Commonwealth Games. It had been relaid with a synthetic surface, but it looked like it could have been 40 years old! The vault runway was not as old but had not been resurfaced for a few years.

"The state premier, Mr Colin Barnett, did the opening. (Berlin 2009 selection) Kim Mickle threw the javelin and there was a 100 metres race featuring Jody Henry, who has just been selected in 4x400 for the world championships.

"Perth is as good for sprinting as it is for vaulting and with twilight competition, the wind should calm down enough to stay within legal limits for records. It would be cool to see Usain Bolt run there. I don’t know how much that would cost, but I’m pretty sure he could run a world record if the wind stayed right."

Steve