After winning the 2008 Olympic Games, the 2009 World Championships and the 2010 World Indoor Championships Steven Hooker has failed to win at any of the seven Diamond League meetings in which he took part this summer and even no heighted on three occasions.
Coming into the IAAF / VTB Bank Continental Cup, Hooker had a lot to prove in a competition in which he would be facing arch rival, European champion and World leader Renaud Lavillenie of France.
In a scenario which had been expected much earlier in the year but actually never materialised Hooker and Lavillenie were the two major contestants for the win, albeit in totally different states of mind.
The Frenchman who joined the 6-metre exclusive club last summer took the lead from his security opening clearance at 5.40m and never relinquished it having a clean sheet up until 5.90m.
Meanwhile, Hooker was making mistakes at heights as low as 5.40m (once) and then 5.75 and 5.80m at which point he elected to gamble and pass to the next height. His first time clearance at 5.90 was the first hint of his returning form. Game was on.
Jumping first Hooker had pressure on his shoulders as he needed to go one higher if he wanted the win. The jump he had been waiting for came the third time of asking at 5.95m; pressure suddenly shifted and landed on Lavillenie who had also failed twice at that height. It wasn’t going to be and as the Frenchman did not complete his jump, Hooker called it a day bagging his first major win since the World Indoor gold medal back in March, 8 points for his team and the 30,000$ winners’ cheque.
Hooker defended a title he won at the late IAAF World Cup four years ago in Athens and added the Competition record and the World leading performance to his resume.
“For the first time in my career I defended a World title,” Hooker said. “Being a World Cup and Continental Cup title holder for eight years gives me confidence for the Commonwealth Games. It was a very good jump, I'm now holding a world leading result for the first time ever and I'll be very proud if it stays that way at the end of the season. I'll try to keep my mentality for the last two competitions. This stadium is great and the crowd really loves athletics, they were cheering for every one of us.”
Representing Team Americas Derek Miles secured third place with a 5.75 clearance as European silver medallist Maksym Mazuryk had to be content with fourth at 5.65m.
Laura Arcoleo for the IAAF