Hooker vaults back into London reckoning

Simon White -Apr 12, 2012

A relaxed Steve Hooker discusses technique with his coach Alex Parnov inside his secret Perth training facility.

A relaxed Steve Hooker discusses technique with his coach Alex Parnov inside his secret Perth training facility.

It's a little past 10am in an outwardly decrepit-looking warehouse on the outskirts of Perth - and Steve Hooker has just finished a training session he hopes will help vault him over a mental block towards a successful Olympic defence.

Beijing gold medallist pole vaulter Hooker yesterday allowed the media into what has now been a secret indoor training facility in a disused railway shop in Midland, Perth.

The old train engines have been replaced with 100 metres of artificial runway and, less than two months after he told the world he ''didn't know how to do it any more'', things are suddenly looking up for Hooker.

''I'm a different person from two months ago,'' Hooker said.

''I went back to basics and I realised I was missing some really fundamental stuff that was really important.

''It was basic pole vault 101 stuff, I was thinking really high-level technical stuff and neglecting the most important basics of pole vault.''

Hooker's state-of-the-art facility - borne out of a conversation with an energy drink company (fittingly, the one that supposedly gives you wings) - has been in operation from March 2011.

But it's since Hooker and his coach Alex Parnov withdrew from the Australian domestic season in mid-February that it has really proved its worth.

Already, having stripped back his approach, Hooker has cleared 5.44m off an eight-step run-up.

Yesterday he made his first two vaults off his full 18 steps since before his early exit from last year's world championships in Korea.

Hooker, whose personal best of 6.06m is the highest vault of the 21st century, must clear 5.72m to qualify for London.

''It was no fun last year,'' Hooker said.

''It was no fun getting to the world championships knowing I hadn't done what I needed to do for my preparation.''

One of the two runways in Midland is sloped downhill, to help replicate what he will see in London.

As opposed to a couple of months back, Hooker says he now stands at the end of the runway knowing exactly what he is about to do.

His next step is to prove just that in competitive circumstances, starting with a ''sanctioned'' practice competition in four weeks' time. The sanctioning means a qualifying clearance would count, although Hooker said he intended it merely as preparation for his international comeback in Shanghai in May.

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