Steve Hooker and Renaud Lavillenie after their clash at the 2010 IAAF Continental Cup (Getty Images) © Copyright
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Steve Hooker’s story behind the picture

Australia’s 2009 world and 2008 Olympic pole vault champion Steve Hooker reflects on this image taken when he and Renaud Lavillenie are set to share an embrace at the end of a titanic battle at the 2010 IAAF Continental Cup in Split, Croatia.

“This is one of my favourite images from my career. It was probably the first time where both Renaud and I jumped well at the same meeting. We’d enjoyed a good, tough competition in which I won with 5.95m, five centimetres ahead of Renaud.

“My 2010 season was one of the longest of my career. I had won the world indoor title in Doha in March but then picked up a knee injury in my take-off leg and struggled for form during the Diamond League campaign. I managed to return to form for the Continental Cup before competing twice more - ending the season in October with gold at the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi. It had been a long year, which had taken its toll both physically and mentally but winning the Continental Cup and beating Renaud in a big global competition was the highlight.

“For much of that European season I had struggled, but I have a sneaky little story as to how I had managed to turn things around at the Continental Cup. I had arrived in Split not feeling too great when I saw the Canadian chiropractor Gerry Ramogida working with the European squad. I’d built up a relationship with Gerry over time on the circuit, so I asked him if he wouldn’t mind treating me. He worked on me for 15 minutes and as soon as I got off the treatment table for the first time that season I felt good. I don’t know what Gerry had done but I felt like my old self again. It really does show the value of being treated by a good therapist.

“It took me a while to find my rhythm that day but once I did, it felt like I was attacking the jumps. I recall missing out on 5.85m at my first attempt and then passing after Renaud cleared that height. We both then cleared 5.90m with our first attempt before I managed to make it over 5.95m with my third effort. It was such a big relief that I still had a big jump in me. It was probably the last big jump of my career.

“I still have an image of that 5.95m clearance hanging up on the wall of my wife’s house and the kids still look at the picture.

“In a wider sense, I have other great memories of that competition. I was the Asia-Pacific team captain and I remember giving a motivational speech to the team. It was pretty clear the battle would be between the Americas and Europe and our aim was to shoot for third place and beat Africa – which we very nearly did (just two-and-a-half points separated third placed Africa from Asia-Pacific in fourth).

“I also got involved in team selection and encouraged Olga Rypakova who had won the triple jump to compete in the long jump because we (Asia-Pacific) only had one jumper. Olga went on to finish third in the long jump and scored good points for the team.

“I also recall the post-competition celebrations on the beach in Split - which will go down as one of the great after-parties. It was the end of a long European season and all the athletes were up for a party!”

Steve Landells for the IAAF