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AFL name game has merit (clone 1334633167)
AFL name game has merit (clone 1334633167)

After that exalted night in Midland in May, it appeared that Steve Hooker had been put back together again.

His demons conquered, the reigning Olympic pole vault champion sailed over 5.72m — the qualifying height for the London Games.

It was high fives all round in the old Midland railways workshop as Hooker booked his berth to defend his Olympic crown, seemingly with his yips beaten.

Yet, two months later, the outlook is again gloomy. And no matter how you look at it, Hooker’s in dire trouble.

His best leap in his time overseas is 5.42m, a height below most levels at which he would have started his competition in previous years. It’s not insignificant but nowhere near enough to worry any of the world’s best vaulters at the Games.

Hooker, we have a problem.

After all the work with his coach Alex Parnov, Hooker’s overseas campaign which started in Shanghai on May 19 has seen him no-height in three competitions and his best clearance remains at 5.42m.

All this from a man whose 6.06m in 2009 is the second highest in history behind legendary Sergei Bubka’s 6.14m.

In the past Hooker has had a magic pole. He produced some astonishing performances in Beijing when he appeared all but done and at the world championships in Berlin in 2009 when he battled a groin complaint but still won gold.

This time round, while Hooker looks in magnificent physical shape, those yips appear to be eating into his confidence again.

Before he ruled himself out of competition in February to rebuild his technique and his confidence, Hooker talked about feeling lost on the runway as he prepared for his approach.

In the recent competition at Crystal Palace — four years ago he won the event with a leap of 5.97m but this time round he didn’t register a height — he again mentioned that he felt lost.

That’s not a good sign. And given the qualifying round for the men’s pole vault is scheduled for August 8, there is precious little time for Hooker, who is captain of the athletics team, to get his campaign back in order.

In this trend continues he won’t make the final on August 10. We can only hope that he can produce a magic wand but time is against him.

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