WRITTEN FOR SKYSPORTS
As he makes his senior global championship debut in Turkey this weekend, high-jumper Robbie Grabarz is in with a shout of a medal – a far cry from his form twelve months earlier, writes Nicola Bamford.
The 24-year-old from Essex is currently sat in fourth place on the world rankings heading into the World indoor Championships in Istanbul this weekend, courtesy of a breakthrough 2.34m lifetime best leap in Germany in January and looks set to drastically improve on his performance at the European event a year ago, where he finished a lowly twenty-third in the qualifying round with 2.12m in Paris.
Guided by Fuzz Ahmed at his Birmingham base, Grabarz’s finest performance of the winter so far not only improved his previous indoor best by an impressive nine centimetres but also took six centimetres from his outdoor best set last summer.
Now ranked as third on the British all-time list for indoors and out, the Loughborough University graduate is savouring his rise in development:
“My indoor season so far has almost gone to plan, with a blip at the UK championships where I under-performed (in second place with 2.23m) and didn't meet the targets I had set for myself.
“Other than that, I have met my targets this far and am looking forward to competing this coming weekend at the World indoor’s in Turkey,” Grabarz explained.
Six years since finishing twelfth in the World junior outdoor Championships, he continued:
“My winter training has been great - the best winter I have ever had.
“I moved to Birmingham in October as part of my new-found commitment and focus to share the same base as my coach and two main training partners and shall be heading into the championships with the aim of first making the final, followed by a battle for the medals in the final the following day.”
A recent winner of the world-class Aviva Grand Prix with a 2.32m clearance on home turf, Grabarz contributes his new lease of athletic life to a change in his mental attitude towards the sport.
Forced to miss out on the World outdoor Championships in Daegu, South Korea last August, he chose to instil a new sense of professionalism in order to achieve his Olympic ambitions in 2012:
“I was disappointed with an unsuccessful 2011 season so once that ended, I took myself aside and questioned myself and why I was under performing, and decided I never wanted to let this happen again,” Grabarz revealed.
“I took a new approach to my training through the winter leading into this indoor season, which has been a success so far – I decided to bring 100% of myself to every training session and competition in the future, mentally and physically, leaving any distractions in my car as I set foot toward the track.”
“Last year was an unsuccessful season for me but I look at it as the inspiration for a great winters training and a successful indoor season so far - in the future I will not be looking for negative prompts as inspiration to move forwards but in this case it helped spur me on.”
Upon the close of the indoor season, Grabarz will head for a spell of warm-weather training in Italy in May in order to prepare for his Olympic qualification assault in the summer.
With places on Team GB for the London Games in August set to be hotly-contested, he is ready for high-pressured outdoor campaign:
“The main aim for 2012 is to keep improving, jump consistently at 2.30m and above and ensure I qualify for the Games,” he explained.
“My event in the UK right now is very strong - there is a lot of depth in the event with possibly six guys fighting for the three spots at the Games and I expect, come the summer, everyone to be fighting fit and very competitive ahead of Olympic qualification.”
Understandably eager to transform his current eye-catching form into the outdoor season for when it matters most, Grabarz is keen to make an impact on his Olympic debut:
“My aims for the Olympics are first to qualify then to make the final, and once there contend for a medal,” he revealed.
“I am dealing with pressure by applying the same principles to competition as I have for the past ten years of high jumping - keeping it as simple as possible and controlling the things I have the power to control.
“I know that what I am doing in training and competition right now is working so I will work with my coach to tweak a few things ahead of the summer and to remain focused on what I am doing is the most important thing I can do to ensure I achieve my goals at the Games.”