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General News The moment after the six

Danny Ecker six-metre man

Ursula Kaiser for IAAF

14 February 2001 - The moment after the six-metre jump was wonderful and incredible. When Danny Ecker, at the International Athletic Meeting in Dortmund cleared six metres at his third attempt, reached a new world best mark and improved his two days old German National Indoor record from 5.96m - four centimetres more, his emotions got the better of him.

Hardly had he hit the mat that he was back on his feet and shouting for joy. And very carefully he looked up, to check that the bar was still in place. It was. It was the jump of his life. "And it was like being drunk", Ecker said after this beautiful scene. And with this result, the 23 year old became the fifth vaulter in history to clear six metres indoors.

Danny Ecker has been in very good shape for weeks. He started the season with 5.80m, before vaulting 5.85m and then, two days before Dortmund, he improved the national record to 5.96m. Now Ecker had broken the 6m barrier. It was the climax of his career until last Sunday. "I have to digest everything that happened, I couldn’t do it, because everything came so fast", the son of the Olympic Champion from 1972, Heide Ecker-Rosendahl said happily.

He never thought that after the record in Chemnitz he would improve again just two days later. "I was very exhausted after the competition", the 1.92 m tall young man reflected.

When he spoke about the "jump of his life", he always shook his head. Again and again. It was unbelievable for the 23-year-old athlete. He couldn’t express his feelings. The only words he kept repeating were: "it’s crazy."

Danny Ecker didn’t plan the six metres. "It’s not possible to do that. If it comes it comes", he said. But the jumps were very strenuous. In this area things start getting serious. The important thing is: concentration, focusing until the eyes, the ears, the body and the legs are hurting.

"I didn’t look at six metres before I ran up for the jump", Danny Ecker. said. "I really can’t remember the big moment".

In spite of this success, the pole vaulter had conflicting feelings. Despite apparently being in the shape of his life, the Bronze medallist of the  1999 World Indoor Championships  will end his season after jumping in Stockholm and Potsdam on Sunday the 18 February. He will have an operation on his right foot on 22 February. "I have had pains there for two years and I hoped after Sydney that it would disappear after conventional treatment but it didn’t happen.

"It’s a pity to finish now the season, but I have to think of the future", Ecker said. And for the German, the World Championships in Edmonton in August are the most important rendezvous this year.

Nobody has any doubts just how difficult this decision is for the young athlete who trains with Leszek Klima. An operation will cost him six to ten weeks of training. And a lot of patience.

"In any case he mustn’t start too early after the operation", his coach Klima said.

He feels as helpless as his athlete. And he is afraid, that it’s not enough time to become fit again for Edmonton. It’s a very difficult situation. In the winter Danny Ecker got it under control. "I could do almost everything in training, but sometimes I had to bite on my teeth". But the pains are there. And they must disappear. It’s a hard decision.

Ecker would be the favourite in Lisbon. But maybe he would regret his start. So what should he do?

The time is running out. Only five months after Lisbon the World Championships in Edmonton take place. And this is the goal for the 23 year old.

For the time being, the euphoria about the great result is the dominating emotion. But as the operation comes closer, Ecker will be unsure. He could carry on jumping for a while, linger with the pains, but what will happen afterwards?

If his current form was not so good, the decision would be much easier. But anyway, nobody can take that six metre mark away, operation or no operation.

Maybe Danny Ecker will keep a loophole open to change his mind. The problem is, nobody really knows what is best.