20 AUG 2008 General News Beijing, China

Mason - First Olympic High Jump silver for Britain since London 1908

The high jump medallists: Germaine Mason, Andrey Silnov and Yaroslav Rybakov (Getty Images)The high jump medallists: Germaine Mason, Andrey Silnov and Yaroslav Rybakov (Getty Images) © Copyright

His sporting motto is: “Whatever you do – do it well.“ Germaine Mason could hardly have done better on Tuesday night (19) in the High Jump final. While it had already been a unique sight to watch three Britons compete in this Olympic final the 25-year-old turned out to be one of the most unexpected medal winners of the Games in Athletics.

Clearing 2.34m Germaine Mason took a silver, placing himself between the two Russians Andrey Silnov (2.36) and Yaroslav Rybakov (2.34) as well as ahead of Sweden’s High Jump star Stefan Holm (2.32 for fourth).

For Mason Beijing was the absolute highlight of his career so far, but for British High Jumping this is even more significant. There was Steve Smith who had captured a bronze medal in Atlanta in 1996 with 2.35. But one has to go back a very long time in Olympic history to find a British silver medallist in the High Jump: In fact you have to go back exactly one century!

It was at the London Games in 1908, when Con Leahy took the silver medal with 1.88. Two years earlier at the so-called ‘Interim Games’ he had become an Olympic Champion in Athens with 1.775 m. Earlier, in Paris in 1900, his brother Patrick Leahy had been second with 1.78 m. That was it concerning Olympic medals in the men’s High Jump for Great Britain.

I feel like Superman or like Usain Bolt

So apart from Steve Smith this story is a very long time ago. In time for London 2012 there are new hopes – and with Tom Parsons and Martyn Bernard taking eighth and ninth place with 2.25m there might be even more to come. They are both born in 1984 so a year younger than Germaine Mason. At the national championships Parsons had won with 2.30 from Mason (2.27) and Bernard (2.23).

“It is good when you come in as a surprise. It feels good – it is hard to explain. I feel like Superman or like Usain Bolt, when he won his gold medal,” said Mason, who knows Usain Bolt well. He used to compete with him for Jamaica in the past. The 25 year-old was born in Kingston (Jamaica) in 1983.

“I started doing athletics at the age of nine in primary school. I had affection for the sport and recognized my talent.”

Mason already had some success for his native country: In 2000 he was the silver medallist at the World Junior Championships with 2.24 and two years later he took a bronze at these championships clearing 2.21. Germaine Mason was competing at the World Championships for the first time in Paris, finishing fifth with 2.29. A year later he won a bronze medal at the world indoors in Budapest with 2.25 but then missed the Olympic Games because of a foot injury.

Today Mason spends half of the year in Jamaica to train with Stephen Francis, who is the coach of Asafa Powell. There had been a split with Francis in 2005, which resulted in the High Jumper turning away from Jamaica. Since his father is British he has dual citizenships and started competing for Great Britain in 2006. Ironically his father now lives in Jamaica while his mother, who is Jamaican, lives in London.

Poor beginnings

Mason hadn’t a good start in the British vest. He placed ninth at the European Championships in 2006 and then was 12th at the World Championships in Osaka in 2007, clearing only 2.19 m on each occasion. Because of the poor performances he lost lottery funding. That might well change after this performance in Beijing.

Germaine Mason took a gamble after missing 2.29 m at his first attempt. He went on to 2.32 m and cleared this at once. He then cleared 2.34 m (his personal best before) and 2.36 m at once, with which he secured the silver.

“I was confident and focused on my technique. I knew that if I would get that right, I would get some very good jumps. I have been waiting to equal my personal best for five years. And finally I did it when it counts,” said Mason. There were still seven jumpers in the competition at 2.34m. “It was very nerve-racking.”

“I am very proud to have won Britain’s first athletics medal of these Games,” said Mason, who took the silver shortly before Christine Ohuruogu stormed to the 400m gold.

“Great Britain gave me an opportunity to compete for the country and they supported me. I feel very British.”

Though he also stated that obviously Jamaica still is in his heart as well. When Germaine Mason had started competing for Britain he had promised to win a medal.

“It is a very good feeling to have done this.”

Jörg Wenig for the IAAF