Pole vaulter Steve Hooker hams it up with javelin thrower Kimberley Mickle at the WA Athletics Stadium yesterday
Pole vaulter Steve Hooker hams it up with javelin thrower Kimberley Mickle at the WA Athletics Stadium yesterday

Pole vault champion Steve Hooker will target the Olympic qualifying mark at home in February as he searches for confidence leading to London next year.

The 29-year-old is seven months away from defending the gold medal he won at Beijing.

But Hooker knows he is far from certain to qualify for the Olympics, with a minimum jump of 5.72m required at the qualifiers in Melbourne in March to guarantee his place on the Australian team.

He is coming off a disappointing 12 months, with a persistent knee injury marring preparation for this year's world championships, where he failed at the first height of 5.50m.

Hooker will compete in the Go for 2&5 Perth Track Classic at the WA Athletics Stadium starting on February 11.

It is likely to be his first competitive effort off a full-length approach for the year.

The presence of American pole vaulter Mark Hollis, whose personal best is 5.74m, will provide an accurate benchmark of where Hooker is at.

"I've got to jump 5.72 to make the team. If I'm not jumping 5.72 then I shouldn't be going to the Olympics," Hooker said.

"It's all part of the process. That's one of the check marks along the way and it's probably a nice intermediate thing to try and get done this Australian season. If I jump that here I'd be really happy with it.

"I'd like to be attempting it at least … but once again there's no pressure on this comp. There's another month after this comp before the trials in Melbourne."

Hooker said the main concern for his Olympics preparation would be managing his troublesome knee.

"It's a different preparation coming off a sub-par season than when you're absolutely flying," Hooker said.

"I'm just trying to go back to basics with my pole vault stuff. It's going well, it's progressing.

"All my physical stuff is pretty good. My speed's as good as it's ever been and my strength is as good as it needs to be.

"It's just about getting on top of my jumping again, finding that rhythm and just getting my confidence back there."

Hooker and javelin thrower Kimberley Mickle launched the countdown to the Perth Track Classic yesterday.

Mickle has already earned pre-selection for London, but will face strong competition in the shape of American Kara Patterson, whose best throw is almost 3m farther than Mickle's best.

"To have someone's who's actually got a bigger throw than I do just makes me more hungry for it," Mickle said.

The West Australian

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