Olympics Legend: Steve Hooker

Australia’s 60-year quest for its next field sport Olympic gold finally ended when Steve Hooker soared . . . and soared . . . into the Beijing night air
Olympics Legend: Steve Hooker
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Name Steve Hooker

 

Lives Melbourne

 

Olympics Beijing, 2008

 

Sport Pole Vault

 

Age Then 26

 

Age Now 33

  

Hooker’s Olympic Record Jump 5.96m

 

Current World Record 6.16m (Renaud Lavillenie, France)

 

Coming into Beijing there were three of us who were clearly better than anyone else and, as far as I was concerned, Yevgeny Lukyanenko of Russia and Brad Walker of the US were the ones I had to beat.

 

In the qualifiers, my first jump wasn’t great and I landed on the bar. On my next I got under the bar. Historically, I’m very good at third attempts and I tried to turn that into a positive. I also took the next (stiffer) pole and moved my run-up back a bit. It worked. Meanwhile, Brad missed his three attempts.

 

I wasn’t feeling good in the final. My third at 5.80 metres was all over the place, but I hit the mat okay and thought, “Good, that’s silver”. I was still pretty business-like. At that point you’re in a boxing match and I didn’t want Yevgeny to think I was content with that.

 

Click here for: Dean Lurkin Lift of a Lifetime

Crunch Time

We both missed our first two attempts at 5.85m before Yevgeny cleared. My next jump was one I look back on and say that sometimes luck goes your way. As soon as I started to go up I knew I was going way right. Eight times out of 10 I wouldn’t have even put my feet above my head. Ninety-nine times out of 100 I would have missed. But I somehow got over, just landed on the mat and thought, “Maybe this is my day”.

 

Although I missed my first two attempts at 5.90m I was happy with my run-up, my grip and my pole – the same one I’d jumped six metres with earlier that year. I didn’t watch, but when Yevgeny missed his third attempt I knew I’d win gold if I jumped this.

 

I’d visualised this moment 10,000 times. It was a complete flow state and in the end it was the easiest jump I’d done that day and one of the easiest of my life. There’s maybe a second as you’re falling to the mat and all I remember is screaming, “Yes!”

 

Bum Rap

Like sprinters and long-jumpers, pole vaulters need to get from zero to maximum speed over a short distance. Now look behind you – have you got what it takes? “You can’t run without glutes,” says Hooker. Another reason not to skip leg day.

 

Big Gains, Fast

“It might be flexibility, it might be speed, but nothing exposes your weaknesses better than pole vault,” says Hooker. And right there is your quickest path to improvement. “You’ll get only incremental gain working on your strengths, so attack your weaknesses. Be analytical and creative and figure out ways to improve them for big wins.”

 

You Can’t Buy . . .

Experience. “In my mind, anything less than gold would have been a sub-par result, with my main advantage being that I’d been to an Olympics and the other two hadn’t. The Games are big, overwhelming, and I was ready for that.” Remember, if you think it’s an advantage, it is an advantage.

 

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