Rising pole vault star Raphael Holzdeppe came of age in the Zawisza Stadium by cruising to the World Junior title just 12 months after crashing out of the European Under-20 Championships when failing clear his opening height.
The German World junior record holder was strong fancied to win gold in Hengelo last summer but after ambitiously entering the competition at 5.10m his hopes crumbled as he no-heighted.
Risky tactics pay off
Holzdeppe adopted a similarly risky approach in Bydgoszcz and only entered the fray at 5.40m – a height which only one of his fellow finalists was to clear. But this time he refused to crack and an easy first-time clearance paved the way for a comfortable win as he also cleared 5.50m.
But did thoughts of the European Juniors enter his head in the final?
“The European Juniors happened last year,” said Holzdeppe. “I just concentrated in the jumps now. What happened at the European Juniors will never happen again. Before the competition I was very nervous but once I cleared the first height I felt a lot better.”
Holzdeppe is one of the most exciting pole vault talents to emerge for many years and is being tipped as a potential future Olympic champion.
This season he has advanced his personal best by 0.30 and his 5.80m clearance in Biberach in June equalled the World junior record first set 19 years earlier by Maksim Tarasov of the Soviet Union.
In his next competition the German proved this was no fluke by finishing third at his national championships and qualifying for the Olympic Games in Beijing.
Holzdeppe was adopted when he was a baby and knows nothing about his natural parents. However, sport has played an important part in his life from a young age.
He was a regional standard gymnast and also a keen judo player – which will have undoubtedly contributed to the flexibility and strength needed to thrive in pole vault.
His first taste of athletics came when his local club – LAZ Zweibrucken for whom he still competes - organised a competition at his primary school. Holzdeppe finished third competing in a range of sprint and jump events but soon after joining the club he quickly hit upon the event which would change the direction of his life.
“One time I try the pole vault and I love this event,” said Holzdeppe, who is also a passionate basketball player. “I’ve been doing pole vault since the age of about 10.”
Holzdeppe showed a natural aptitude for the event and on his major international debut he finished fifth with 5.30m at the 2006 World Junior Championships in Beijing.
Next stop: Beijing
Last season he progressed to 5.50m but this year he has emerged as a genuine world-class athlete. Under the watchful eye of his coach - the 1996 Olympic bronze medallist Andrei Tivontchik - he set a World junior indoor record of 5.68m in Halle in March before going on to enjoy an unforgettable summer.
But what does he hope to achieve in Beijing next month?
“I really don’t know. I’ll have to have a think. Maybe next year I will also compete at the World Championships in Berlin.”
You would not bet against him being there, too.
Steve Landells for the IAAF