Monday, 18 February 2013

Six British Victories in Birmingham Thriller


16 February 2013

The Great Britain and Northern Ireland team enjoyed six victories as the British Athletics Grand Prix returned to Birmingham’s National Indoor Arena, in arguably the world’s finest indoor event this afternoon. 

Mo Farah (coach: Alberto Salazar), Nigel Levine (Linford Christie), Holly Bleasdale (Dan Pfaff/Scott Simpson), Shara Proctor (Rana Reider), Michael Rimmer (Norman Poole) and Helen Clitheroe (John Nuttall) treated the sell-out crowd to impressive wins, as Britain’s best honed their preparations ahead of the European Indoor Championships in Gothenburg next month. 

Double Olympic champion Mo Farah returned from a training spell in Kenya to a rapturous reception, as the British hero strode to a comfortable 7:42.00 3,000m victory on his only indoor race of 2013.

The 29-year-old eased ahead of France’s Florian Carvalho (7:45.77), while UK indoor 1500m runner-up Lee Emanuel (Ronnie Warhurst) finished third with a 7:51.46 season’s best outside of the
European Championship qualifying time.

Tom Humphries placed fourth in 7:54.79 and James Wilkinson (Philip Townsend) clocked a 7:57.90 personal best in sixth.

Farah – who will next tackle a half-marathon in America next weekend said afterwards:

“It was brilliant. It was important that I tried to win my only indoor race, so that was good.

“I’ve got a lot of miles under my legs but we’re good. The crowd was really good today. We got great support from them, it was amazing.”

Fresh from claiming the UK indoor 400m title last weekend, Nigel Levine took the scalp of Olympic bronze medallist Lalonde Gordon with a 46.34 to the Trinidadian’s 46.73. Fellow Brit, Richard Strachan (Linford Christie)came third registering a time of 46.78.

Levine said:

“I’ve won here three years in a row. I’m happy to maintain that record.

“First of all, I need to make the final at the European’s, I’ve never done that yet. That’s my first aim then I’ll think about the medals.”

On the in-field, current world-leader Holly Bleasdale cleared 4.70m to take yet another victory in the pole vault.

The 21-year-old initially 4.50m at the first attempt then skipped to her final mark, taking just two jumps for the win ahead of Olympic silver medallist, Yarisley Silva of Cuba, who took the same height but at the second effort.

Bleasdale – the World indoor bronze medallist – took three attempts at 4.78m before explaining:

“I’m really happy with that. I’ve been really positive and really confident all through the indoors and I’m going into it in the best state I can be to win gold, so I’m really confident.”

Shara Proctor claimed victory in the women’s long jump with a fine 6.78m leap.

Taking the ‘performance of the day’ award, Proctor said:

“I’m very pleased with this performance, I came out here just to win and in the process I got 6.78m so I’m really happy with that.”

In the men’s 800m, Michael Rimmer turned the tables on an illness and injury-plagued few years to return to top form in a winning 1:46.55 personal best.

The five-time UK outdoor champion battled hard in a scrappy race en route to a shock victory ahead of two-time World indoor champion, Abubaker Kaki of Sudan (1:46.57).

UK indoor runner-up Mukhtar Mohammed (Mustafa Mohammed) clocked a 1:46.58 personal best in third, while Olympic finalist and World indoor bronze medallist, Andrew Osagie (Craig Winrow) placed fourth with a 1:46.97 season’s best.

Further consolidating the British strength in this event, Guy Learmonth (George Gandy) and Joe Thomas (Arwyn Davies) finished fifth and sixth in a 1:47.41 personal best and 1:47.79 season’s best, respectively. 

2011 European indoor champion, Helen Clitheroe (John Nuttall) caused a surprise in speeding to a European 3,000m qualifying time despite enduring heavy marathon training of late, winning the fifteen-lap race in 8:50.16.

UK champion Lauren Howarth (Peter Riley) ran an 8:52.00 personal best, tantalisingly-close to the 8:51 European standard, while steeplechase specialist, Eilish McColgan (Liz McColgan) finished fourth in an 8:53.17 personal best.

Also setting new best figures were Emily Stewart (Ian Whyte) and UK indoor 800m bronze medallist, Jessica Judd (Rob Denmark) in seventh and eighth with 8:59.38 and 9:00.06, respectively.

Olympic high-jump bronze-medallist Robbie Grabarz (Fayyaz Ahmed) finished behind his toughest rival for the continental title, World outdoor runner-up, Aleksey Dmitrik - clearing a best of 2.29m to the Russian’s 2.33m.

Grabarz, the European champion, failed at the 2.33m mark but took the scalp of Olympic champion Ivan Ukhov (Russia), who placed third on count-back with 2.29m.

Olympic 400m hurdles semi-finalist, Perri Shakes-Drayton (Chris Zah) continued her impressive indoor form with a huge 51.37 personal best in second place in the 400m behind American Natasha Hastings (50.88).

The 24-year-old finished one place ahead of fellow hurdler Eilidh Child (Malcolm Arnold), who improved her Scottish record to 51.50.

Enjoying her first race in eighteen months due to injury, European indoor gold medallist and World outdoor bronze medallist, Jenny Meadows (Trevor Painter) finished a fine runner-up in the 800m with 2:02.86.

The 31-year-old finished behind Olympic bronze medallist, Ekaterina Poistogova of Russia (2:02.25) and pushed European silver medallist Lynsey Sharp (Terrance Mahon) into third, as the Scot clocked a 2:03.07 personal best.

Meadows revealed:

“I can make all the excuses in the world for myself but I haven’t got much training behind me whatsoever and the hardest thing for me is facing an amazing crowd like this, you put yourself under a lot of pressure. For me to come out and finish second in a field like that and really cope with that pressure will get me ready for the outdoor season.

“It’s great that my running days aren’t over and I feel like I’ve got a second chance at this career now.”

World indoor silver medallist Tiffany Porter (Rana Reider) finished third in the 60m hurdles in a tight finish, clocking 8.12 behind winner Danielle Carruthers of the USA (8.11).

Reigning World indoor champion, Yamile Aldama (Frank Attoh) finished fourth in the triple jump with 13.91m behind World outdoor champion Olha Saladukha of the Ukraine (14.61m).

UK champion Gianni Frankis (Tony Jarrett) finished fifth in the 60m hurdles with a 7.70 clocking behind winner Omo Osaghae of the USA (7.51), while Allan Scott (Stuart Hogg) placed sixth with 7.74.

In a highly-competitive 60m final, Greg Cackett (Ron Roddan) sped to an impressive 6.66 clocking in
fifth place, while America’s 2010 World indoor runner-up Mike Rogers blasted to a 6.53 victory.

In the women’s race, UK champion, Asha Philip (Christine Bowmaker) finished sixth with 7.25 in a top class 60m field.

The race was won by Murielle Ahoure of the Ivory Coast, who set an all-comers record and personal best with an impressive 6.99. 

Making her season debut, Birmingham-based Hannah England (Bud Baldaro) finished sixth in the 1500m with a solid 4:14.70 behind World indoor champion, Genzebe Dibaba of Ethiopia, who was close to the world record with a 4:00.83 all-comers record.

England was a place ahead of UK 800m indoor champion, Claire Tarplee (George Gandy), who registered 4:15.57 with UK indoor runner-up Rosie Clarke (Michael Firth) finishing eighth in a
4:16.53 personal best.

In the men’s metric mile, Chris Warburton (Norman Poole) won the battle of the Brits, registering a 3:41.20 personal best in eighth place behind winner Abdelaati Iguider of Morocco (3:37.45)

Also setting a personal best was 19-year-old UK bronze medallist, Charlie Grice (Jon Bigg), who finished third in 3:41.54.

UK indoor 200m champion, Margaret Adeoye (Linford Christie) made a rare quarter-mile appearance in the national 400m, winning with 52.45 from UK 400m bronze medallist Meghan Beesley (Nick Dakin) who clocked 53.17 in second.

Luke Lennon-Ford (Linford Christie) took the men’s equivalent in a 47.09 season’s best.



Monday, 11 February 2013

Strong Euro Promise on Trials Day Two


10 February 2013

Day two of the British Athletics European Trials & UK Championships witnessed several athletes with intentions of grabbing a European medal in Gothenburg next month succeed in asserting
their dominance.

Robbie Grabarz (Coach: Fayyaz Ahmed), Nigel Levine (Linford Christie), Margaret Adeoye (Linford Christie) and Eilidh Child (Malcolm Arnold) enjoyed fine performances as they continue to hone their preparations for the continental championship.

Now assured a place on the GB & NI squad for the Swedish event three-weeks from now, the rest of Britain’s best must wait to hear of selection until Tuesday 19 February. 

Olympic bronze medallist Robbie Grabarz leapt 2.31m to win the high jump by nine centimetres to show he is rounding into Gothenburg-winning form.

The 25-year-old European champion passed the 2.33m mark to attempt the British record of 2.39m and almost successfully cleared it on his third and final attempt.

In second, Italian guest Marco Fassinotti jumped 2.22m as did Allan Smith (Bryan Roy), who took the silver a fortnight after setting a 2.23m Scottish record in Glasgow. 

Grabarz explained afterwards:

“I’ve never had the indoor title so that was my target today and then come in and try to get the world lead. It wasn’t too bad but I was just running too fast so it was the same story as always. It was only my second competition so to be jumping that high is pretty good.

“I’m ready to try and break the record. I’ve been training hard, I’ve not done too many competitions indoors so I know that when I come out I’m ready to go and today showed that.”

In arguably the most competitive event of the championship, Nigel Levine stamped his authority to comfortably win the 400m final in a 46.73 season’s best.

The 2012 winner and Olympic semi-finalist stormed clear of Richard Strachan (Linford Christie) and Michael Bingham (George Harrison), who registered 46.95 and 47.04 for silver and bronze,

Levine revealed after his exertions:

“I was just running. I don’t feel in that much kind of a shape but it is what it is.

“I’m happy to get another national title, my third time.”

Reigning one-lap winner Margaret Adeoye scorched to an impressive 23.22 victory in the 200m final, ahead of Olympic 400m silver-medalist Christine Christine Ohuruogu (Lloyd Cowan), who honed her speed-work with a swift 23.58 season’s best in second place.

The 27-year-old Adeoye said:

“I’m happy, I’ve trained really hard this year after the Olympics so things are going well.

Olympic 400m hurdles semi-finalist Eilidh Child captured her first UK indoor crown with a 52.13 clocking ahead of Olympic 400m semi-finalist Shana Cox (Lloyd Cowan), who recorded a 52.97 season’s best in second.

A day after registering a new Scottish record of 52.06, Child explained afterwards:

“I’m over the moon, I just wanted to win it. I’ve had so many silvers at UK Championships before so it’s great to finally get a gold.

“It’s been a great weekend for me. I was a bit worried about how I’d run today after having a hard run last night. I’m happy that I’ve came out and done two solid races back to back.”

In the triple jump, Yamile Aldama (Frank Attoh) retained her national indoor crown with a 13.44m best effort.

The 40-year-old World indoor champion and Olympic fifth-placer said:

“It feels good to defend the title. Winning is always good. I wasn’t happy with the distance, but I’m coming back slowly after the surgery that I had at the end of September. Training is going really well though.

“I think I will be fully fit for Gothenburg. All that matters there is that you deliver on the day.”

Meanwhile, Laura Muir (Andy Young) cemented her place on the European squad by winning the 1500m final in fine style.

Clocking 4:13.59, the 19-year-old breakthrough athlete of the season strode clear of the field with 500m remaining and finished ahead of Rosie Clarke (Michael Firth) and Melissa McCourtney, who both set personal bests of 4:17.09 and 4:17.57 in second and third, respectively. 

In one of the biggest shocks of the afternoon, Matthew Fayers (Stevan Dokic) ensured his senior British Championship debut was an occasion to remember in sprinting to a dramatic 3:47.77 victory in the 1500m.

It was a personal best for the 18-year-old, who this time last year was claiming the English under20 title and behind, Lee Emmanuel (Ronnie Warhurst) and Charlie Grice (Jon Bigg) took the minor medals with 3:48.28 and 3:48.34, respectively.

Last year’s four-lap champion, Joe Thomas (Arwyn Davies) won a tight battle to retain his 800m crown with European outdoor semi-finalist Mukhtar Mohammed (Mustafa Mohammed), clocking 1:48.55 to the latter’s 1:48.55

In claiming victory, the 25-year-old from Cardiff asserted his return from injury in 2012 and pushed Mohammed to a new personal best in the process.

On the in-field, Olympic and World indoor fifth-placer, Steve Lewis (Dan Pfaff) upgraded his 2012 silver to gold in the pole vault final with a solid 5.50m best leap, ahead of runner-up Luke Cutts
(Trevor Fox) who cleared a 5.35m season’s best.

Irish athlete Claire Tarplee (Bill Foster) edged nearer to the European standard with a significant 2:03.66 personal best to take a surprise 800m victory.

A day after reducing her best to 2:07.24, Tarplee reeled in the fading reigning champion, Marilyn Okoro (Nick Anderson) who appeared to almost collapse with just 15-metres remaining.

Alison Leonard (Bud Baldaro) clocked a 2:03.88 personal best in second place, as the first five finishers all registered lifetime best performances.

European outdoor finalist Chris Clarke (Steve Fudge) took the men’s equivalent with a fine 20.96 personal best ahead of Andre Wright (Harry King), who improved from fourth place last year to take the silver a day after finishing fifth in the 60m final with a 21.29 personal best.

Irish Olympic 100m hurdles semi-finalist Derval O’Rourke claimed the 60m hurdles win as a guest with an 8.11 season’s best ahead of champion, Sarah Claxton (Martey Newman), who clocked 8.16 for the silver medal.

Scott Rider (John Hillier) took his third-consecutive shot put victory with an 18.59m personal best to equal the UK-leading mark of the season.

The 35-year-old was followed by 2012 runner-up Zane Duquemin (John Hillier) with an outright personal best of 18.50m.

Back on the track, Lauren Howarth (Peter Riley) destroyed the 3,000m field and smashed her outright personal best on her indoor debut with a fine 8:56.48 clocking to take the gold.

The 22-year-old finished clear of Emily Stewart (Ian Whyte) and Jessica Judd (Rob Denmark), who sped to 9:08.47 and 9:14.71 personal bests in second and third, respectively. 

Dominique Blaize (Julie Hollman) took the long jump win with a 6.29m season’s best ahead of Jade Surman (Femi Akinsanya), who leapt a 6.19m personal best.

Bleasdale’s World Lead Heads Trials Day One


9 February 2013

An immensely talented trio asserted themselves ahead of next months’ continental championships in Sheffield today, as the British Athletics European Trials & UK Championships graced the English Institute of Sport-Sheffield once again.

Pole-vaulter Holly Bleasdale (coach: Dan Pfaff/Scott Simpson) soared to a world-leading 4.77m in claiming her third UK indoor title, whilst sprint pair Asha Philip (Christine Bowmaker) and James Dasaolu (Steve Fudge) sped to scintillating 7.15 and 6.58 60m victories. 

With their eyes set on qualifying for the GB & NI squad for the European Indoor Championships in Gothenburg in three-weeks’ time, the nation’s finest arrived in south Yorkshire with the aim of finishing in the top-two with the qualifying standard in their event in order to guarantee automatic selection for the Swedish event.

In the women’s pole-vault final, Holly Bleasdale jumped a stunning world-leading 4.77m to claim her third title.

The 21-year-old reigning champion first cleared 4.50m on her second attempt, 4.65m at her first and then went onto challenging a remarkable height of 4.90m on three challenging occasions.

A world indoor bronze medallist and now arguably the red-hot favourite for gold in Gothenburg, a
delighted Bleasdale exclaimed afterwards:

“It was really fun today. I felt really confident in my warm up and I was blowing through all my poles so I knew that I could be on big poles today. I was really happy when I cleared 4.77m on my last attempt, I didn’t quite hook things up how I’d like to but I can’t complain with 4.77m and I know that once I hook everything up I’ll be in a good place.

“It gives me a lot of confidence, I’ve got a few more competitions now and every time I compete I get stronger. I can put all the things I’m doing in training into the competitions and I’m getting better and better at that as I compete. I’m looking forward to getting a few more competitions in before I go to Gothenburg.”

Replicating her silver medal from 2012, Katie Byres (Julien Raffalli-Ebezant) cleared 4.20m ahead of Zoe Brown (James Alexander) who also leapt a best of 4.20m for bronze.

World indoor semi-finalist Asha Philip set the track alight in the 60m final with a scintillating 7.15 stadium record and the third-fastest British time ever.

The 22-year-old took her second win in as many years and pushed Annabelle Lewis (Roger Walters) and Anyika Onuora (Rana Reider) into second and third with 7.33 and 7.37, respectively.

Now in a very favorable position for continental gold, Philip – who here progressed from 7.36 and 7.21 in the rounds - revealed:

“I’m so happy that I’ve managed to time my championships perfectly. I sometimes peak in the semis and this time I said I was going to relax, then go hard in the final, and that’s what I did.

“I’ve been working my socks off because I’ve got such a bad history of injuries, breaking my leg and so on, so it feels great to have come out and run as fast as I did. I’m happy that I’m on top of my game.

“I’m going to go to the Euros and I’m going to try to aim for a medal.”

For Lewis, the silver medal marked a big improvement from fifth place last year, while Onuora enjoyed a season’s best.

Further back in seventh, Margaret Adeoye (Linford Christie) clocked a 7.40 personal best and others
of note included long-jumper Shara Proctor (Rana Reider) and Olympic 400m runner-up Christine Ohuruogu (Lloyd Cowan) with 7.62 and 7.51 in the semi-final stage.

Olympic 100m semi-finalist James Dasaolu edged further inside the European qualifying mark with a speedy 6.58 victory in the 60m final.

The 25-year-old’s lifetime best came after a 6.67 semi-final win and ensured 2012 bronze medallist Harry Aikines-Ayreetey (Rana Reider) had to settle for silver, courtesy of a 6.69 season’s best.

On his fine exertions, Dasaolu said:

“I’m really pleased to book my place for Gothenburg. I was a bit worried after my semi-final when I didn’t get a good start but I knew that as long as I got my start right I’d have a really good chance and to get a new PB as well, so I’m happy.

“I’m pleased with the time, I’d like to have gone a little bit quicker but I’m happy. I want to get a medal at the European Indoor Championships, obviously I’m going to have to go on the lower side of 6.50 but that’s my goal.”

In third, Sean Safo-Antwi (Jonas Tawaiah-Dodoo) clocked 6.69.

Gianni Frankis (Tony Jarrett) upgraded his silver medal from last year to gold this time in the 60m hurdles final.

The 24-year-old capitalised on the form which took him to a fine 7.67 personal best in Austria last month to register 7.73 from Allan Scott (Stuart Hogg)’s 7.76 in second.

The 30-year-old pipped 2012 fourth-placer Nick Gayle (Lloyd Cowan), who clocked 7.79 for bronze.
UK outdoor champion Andrew Pozzi (Malcolm Arnold) was the quickest in qualifying with an eye-catching 7.62 but failed to contest the final due to a hamstring pull.

In the triple jump final, Commonwealth champion Tosin Oke claimed the crown with an impressive 16.87m leap to add to his 2010 victory.

The 32-year-old Olympic seventh-placer jumped consistently with 16.44m and 16.68m in the first and third rounds, respectively before fouling his final three attempts but his best effort in round two was enough to take the win.

Kola Adedoyin (Frank Atttoh) registered a 16.50m personal best to take the silver medal for the second-consecutive year, while his training partner, Michael Puplampu also replicated his 2012 performance with bronze and a personal best mark (16.43m).

2012 bronze medallist Matthew Burton (John Herbert) took the scalp of Olympic sixth-placer Chris Tomlinson (Rana Reider) in claiming the long jump final.

The 25-year-old leapt 7.94m ahead of Tomlinson’s 7.88m with each athlete enjoying a consistent series of jumps.

Dan Bramble (Larry Achike), meanwhile, finished third with 7.80m.

In the women’s high-jump final, 2012 silver medalist Emma Perkins (Fayyaz Ahmed) won a tough battle with 15-year-old Morgan Lake (Eldon Lake).

The 27-year-old from Worthing enjoyed a best height of 1.81m and took victory on count-back, having cleared the mark on her second-attempt in comparison to Lake’s third-time clearance.

Meanwhile, Lake – the British u17 heptathlon record-holder - improved her lifetime best by a single centimeter and cleared 1.78m at her first attempt. Like Perkins, she also went on to challenge the 1.84m mark on three occasions.

Taking the bronze medal after finishing sixth last year, Edinburgh’s Jayne Nisbet (Emily Parker) cleared 1.78m.

David Bishop (James Thie) got the better of cross-country specialist Tom Humphries in the 3,000m final with the former taking gold in a 8:06.98 season’s best from 8:07.11.

Moving up one place from 2012, Phillip Hurst (Martin Crowe) clocked 8:07.28 to take the bronze medal.

Back on the in-field, Rachel Wallader (Geoff Capes) improved from fourth place last year to take the shot put title with a 16.19m throw.

Shaunaugh Brown (John Hillier) took silver with 16.07m, while British under20 record-holder Sophie McKinna (Geoff Capes) claimed the bronze medal with a 15.76m throw.

In the men’s 60m hurdles B final, Jake Porter (Andy Paul) won with 8.11, as David Feeney claimed silver with an 8.19 season’s best and Ashley Johnson (Kay Reynolds) took bronze (8.25).
Olympic 400m hurdles semi-finalist Eilidh Child (Malcolm Arnold) flew to a Scottish record-breaking 52.06 to reach tomorrow’s 400m final as the fastest qualifier by almost two clear seconds.

Behind, Olympic 400m semi-finalist Shana Cox (Lloyd Cowan) registered 53.97 to also progress.

In the men’s equivalent, Nigel Levine (Linford Christie) heads into the final of one of the most fiercely-competitive events of the weekend as the fastest qualifier.

The 2012 winner and Olympic semi-finalist stormed to a 46.95 clocking in his semi-final and lies ahead of training partner Richard Strachan (Linford Christie – 46.99).

Last year’s silver medalist Michael Bingham (George Harrison) and three-time champion Richard Buck (Steve Fudge) were others to notably impress with 47.26 and 47.28, respectively,

European outdoor semi-finalist Mukhtar Mohammed (Mustafa Mohammed) sped to top of the pile of qualifiers for tomorrow’s 800m final with a swift 1:49.84 clocking in winning the third heat.

The 22-year-old Sheffield runner evidently enjoyed competing to the home crowd support and looked
comfortable, while 2012 silver medalist Guy Learmonth (George Gandy) registered the second-quickest time of the day with 1:50.47 with first-place in heat one. 

Also striding into the four-lap final was last year’s victor, Joe Thomas (Arwyn Davies) in 1:51.53 and British U17 record-holder Sean Molloy (Mark Hookway) with a 1:54.61 clocking.

Elsewhere, Charlie Grice (Jon Bigg) and Lee Emanuel (Ronnie Warhurst) were the fastest qualifiers ahead of tomorrow’s 1500m final with 3:48.66 and 3:48.69, respectively.

One of the favourites did however fail to qualify, as British under20 record-holder Matthew McLaughlin (Ayo Falola) fell mid-race.

Alison Leonard (Bud Baldaro) and Marilyn Okoro (Ayo Falola) were the fastest qualifiers for tomorrow’s 800m final with a 2:05.83 and 2:06.11 season’s best, respectively.

Nineteen-year-old Laura Muir (Andy Young) qualified fastest for tomorrow’s 1500m final with a comfortable 4:24.71 clocking.

Monday, 4 February 2013

Robbie Grab-bing for Gold in Moscow Revenge


Having watched his fierce Russian rival, Ivan Ukhov dominate the Olympic final on his territory in London last summer, British high-jumper Robbie Grabarz is now eager to repay the favour in Moscow this coming August by unsettling the pecking order at the IAAF World Championships. 

The 25-year-old European champion and Olympic bronze-medallist - though content with the outcome of his Olympic debut - is determined to seek revenge for the manner in which his illustrious Eastern-European counterpart destroyed both the opposition and his dream, ultimately providing the only disappointment in Grabarz’s fairytale 2012 campaign.

Guided by Fayyaz Ahmed at their Birmingham base in England, Grabarz revealed his plans for redemption in his first global outdoor championship:

“I’ll be in fantastic shape, ready to battle with Ukhov in his back-yard just like he did with me in mine last summer.

“Russia has five or six 2.30m jumpers to choose from and they thrive under the pressure – it’s nice to learn from watching videos of their jumps - but the fun of the high jump is the constant battle with each other, feeling happy when you clear a height only to look up and see your competitor do the

Keen to emphasise the friendly rivalry between himself and the Russians despite their intense encounters and the obvious language barrier, the 2012 IAAF Samsung Diamond League winner does however utilise the aid of a not-so-secret weapon in his quest to gain vengeance, courtesy of guidance from 2004 Olympic champion, Stefan Holm:

“I’ve been working with him for the last couple of years,” Grabarz explained of the Swedish four-time World Indoor victor, “It’s nice that he’s willing to help out and his input’s fantastic as he understands what I’m trying to achieve.”

‘Big Learning Curve’

Now entering only his second year as a world-class athlete following his breakthrough 2012, Grabarz is arguably one of the most-improved athletes of recent months – progressing from fiftieth in the 2011 world rankings to second by the end of last year.

He missed selection for the last IAAF World Championships in Daegu, South Korea just a year out from claiming his Olympic medal – which he shared with Qatar’s Moutaz Essa Barshim-Ahmed and Canada’s Derek Drouin with a 2.29m leap behind Ukhov’s 2.38m winning clearance and runner-up Erik Kynard of the USA (2.33m).

And the London-born Grabarz credits his transformation to losing his funding from British Athletics a year ago and adopting a more professional approach to his training and lifestyle.

Just over a year ago, he improved his 2011 overall best by six-centimetres with a 2.34m clearance indoors in Wuppertal, Germany to kick-start an impressive year, which also saw him finish sixth in the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Istanbul, Turkey with a 2.31m leap in March and go onto claim the continental crown with the same height in Helsinki, Finland on the eve of the Olympics.

Grabarz - whose surname originates from his Polish grandfather – then caused a surprise by equaling Steve Smith’s 20-year-old British record of 2.37m when finishing third in the Lausanne Diamond League behind Barshim-Ahmed (2.39m) and Ukhov (2.37m) in late August.

“I now want the record all to myself - I want to really own it for as long as possible and 2.40m (is the aim) it’s the pinnacle of high jump heights,” he insisted.

To conclude a glittering season, he captured the Diamond League winner’s trophy and $40,000 prize via two victories in Rome, Italy in May and Birmingham, UK in August and four second-place-finishes across the series.

“I knew I’d put the work in over the winter and had a new-found confidence - in competition, I kept catching the next wave so I really enjoyed it all year long and it was a big learning curve. When you’re in that flow, it’s really easy and that was a great pleasure – I hope my whole career can feel like that,” Grabarz revealed.

“Having 80,000 people (in the London Olympic stadium) supporting me was great - I knew I went in as a medal hope and in great shape. I got too excited, though and that’s why I didn’t get the silver but looking back, I’m really pleased.

“It was fantastic as previously, I’d not even been at the major champs - I knew I belonged there and I really enjoyed what I was doing, that helped make my performance better.

“It was quite frustrating to share the medal but satisfying also – Ukhov was unbeatable that day, he owned it out there and he knew he was going to win.”

Having cleared 2.25m and 2.29m on the first attempt and then failing at 2.33m three times, Grabarz continued: “To get a medal after only a few jumps was exciting.”

Moscow Dress-Rehearsal

After holidaying for a few weeks in Australia after the Games, Grabarz commenced training in October after his longest ever end-of-season break and opened his 2013 campaign with second place and 2.29m behind Russia’s World Indoor silver-medallist Alexey Dmitrik (2.31m) at the British
Athletics Glasgow International Match on Saturday.

Captaining the British team, he cleared the 2.25m mark at his second attempt before leaping 2.29m at the first, fouling twice at the 2.31m mark and conceding defeat after hitting the bar on his first attempt at 2.33m.

Competing for the first time since recording an 11.70 100m in high-jump spikes and 2:29.99 800m en route to finishing third in the BBC’s ‘Superstars Olympic special’ in November, Grabarz explained after the competition:

“It was good, it was nice to be challenged in my first competition - I took a risk and passed a bar to try and win it because I was in second place on count-back. I would have liked to have gone higher but I’m happy with it and there’s a lot more to come.

“I was quietly confident and it was the height I was expecting so I’m content with it. It was great fun and I enjoyed myself, it’s a good solid opener. It was a good atmosphere so it was really enjoyable.

“The (captain’s) speech went well, though I was more nervous for that than the competition itself but it was a nice privilege.”

Next, Grabarz will contest the British Athletics European Trials and UK Championships in Sheffield on February 10th, followed by the British Athletics Grand Prix in Birmingham in preparation for the forthcoming European Indoor Championships in Gothenburg.

Having failed to qualify for the final of the last edition in Paris two years ago, he has taken a new
approach to the countdown to the event, which – with three Russians in action - will act as a helpful dress-rehearsal for Moscow five months down the line:

“Before, I was tired by the time I got to the championships so this year, I’m doing less competitions to be fresh when it matters,” revealed Grabarz.

“It’s tough to compete and travel lots so this time, I’m heading into the season feeling strong.” 

On his aspirations for the Sweden event in early March, he continued:

“The aim’s to make the final with little effort and get a medal. I never set a height (as a goal) as so many things can go wrong in the high-jump.

“There will be a very strong Russian presence and they will be jumping high so the final probably won’t be too dissimilar to the World’s.

“I always use the indoors as a warm-up for the outdoor season, testing a few things leading into the summer and they all know who I am now - I think Ukhov and Dmitrik will be there but I know I’ve put the hard work in and the pressure’s more from me than anything else.”

Whether he can actually dethrone Russia from atop of the high-jump tree on their home-turf remains to be seen, but the un-intimidated Grabarz has just under seven-months and a bronze-coloured motive to find out how to do it.