Hooker lured to break pole vault record

DALE MILLER

Reigning world champion Steve Hooker has been offered the richest individual prize in WA athletics history if he can break the world pole vault record on home soil.

The 27-year-old will receive $100,000 in prize money secured by Athletics WA if he can surpass Ukrainian Sergey Bubka's 6.14m benchmark at the national titles at Perth's AK Reserve from April 16-18.

Hooker achieved a personal best 6.06m in Boston last February.

The incentive was revealed as Hooker added WA's premier sporting award to his swag of honours last night, named _The West Australian _-ANZ Sports Star of the Year for 2009 at a gala presentation at Burswood. He was a unanimous choice following his gold at the world championships in Berlin last August when he bravely battled through an adductor strain.

It was the second consecutive year that Hooker claimed the sports star honour, having won in 2008 following his Olympic triumph in Beijing when he captured Australia's first gold medal in a field event in 60 years.

He is only the third person to have won the award in successive years, joining WA cricket great Dennis Lillee and dual world champion sprint cyclist Darryn Hill. Hooker has previously said Perth was a place where he could break the world record that has stood since 1994.

"It is as good a place as anywhere in the world to jump a world record," he said. "I love competing in Perth but haven't had as many opportunities as I would like to compete here."

The national titles double as selection trials for the Commonwealth Games in Delhi in October. Hooker is one of eight Australian track and field athletes who have been pre-selected for the Games.

Hooker's coach Alex Parnov was last night recognised for his role in his pupil's 2009 world title, claiming the KPMG Coach of the Year award for the second successive year.

Lauren Mitchell won the Smarter Than Smoking Junior Sports Star award after snaring two silver medals at last year's world championships in London. The Perth Wheelcats were named Channel Seven Perth Team of the Year, having made history in 2009 by becoming the first side to win four consecutive national wheelchair basketball titles. World champion diver Raelene Lyon received the Skilled Service to Sport honour.

Wallaby James O'Connor won the 882 6PR Special Achievement award and badminton umpire Greg Vellacott was named Gibson & Gibson Lawyers Official of the Year.