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Hooker books Olympic pole vault ticket
May 12, 2012 - 12:29AM
Steve Hooker's dream of defending his pole vault Olympic title is back on track after the 29-year-old secured his ticket for London in a glitzy meet in Perth.
Hooker, making his first competitive outing in three months, cleared the A-qualifying height of 5.72m on his second attempt on Friday night to secure his berth at a third straight Olympics.
The West Australian high-fived the crowd and hugged his coach Alex Parnov after successfully completing the 5.72m jump, with his relief evident for all to see after a turbulent few months.
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A persistent knee injury and a worrying case of the yips had threatened to derail Hooker's Olympic campaign earlier this year.
"The confidence I require to stand at the end of the runway and then charge down, land my pole and soar almost six metres into the air has left me for the time being," Hooker said in February after announcing he would step away from all competition until he regained his mojo.
And regain his mojo he has, with Hooker easily clearing the required Olympic qualifying height in a specially-sanctioned meet held in his own purpose-built indoor training facility in Midland.
The former railway workshop was abuzz with glitz, glamour and an in-house DJ, with the invite-only crowd of around 150 people cheering on their Olympic hero.
Hooker needed two attempts to clear 5.52m, but soared over 5.62m on his first go.
With the bar then set at 5.72m, Hooker aborted his first attempt before easily clearing the mark next go.
With his confidence up, Hooker twice had a go at 5.83m, but pulled out of both attempts before calling it a night at 10.17pm local time.
"Mr Parnov, you're a genius. I'll never doubt you again," Hooker said after booking his Olympics berth.
Hooker, whose personal best of 6.06m makes him the second highest vaulter in the sport's history, will compete in the Diamond League meet in Shanghai later this month, before possibly taking in events in Rome, Munich, Oslo and Lille.
The Perth meet, which also featured Brodie Cross and Blake Lucas, was specially sanctioned by Athletics WA, meaning any height Hooker cleared would count towards Olympic qualification.
Women's pole vaulters Alana Boyd and Liz Parnov were the warm-up acts, with Boyd clearing 4.12m off a six-step run-up and Parnov posting 4.22m off eight steps.