Flying Rocketman Steve Hooker soars to gold

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Flying Rocketman Steve Hooker soars to gold

A multi exposure image shwoing Australia’s Steve Hooker clearing the bar in the men’s pole vault final during the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. Hooker set an Olympic record of 5.96 metres to win the men’s pole vault gold medal.

Flying Rocketman Steve Hooker soars to gold

STEVE Hooker, who once feared the pole vault so much that he struggled to get off the ground, soared to an Olympic gold medal in the Bird’s Nest Stadium early this morning.

The 26-year-old became the first Australian man to win an Olympic medal in the daredevil event, completing a series of clutch jumps in a nerve-racking duel with Russia’s steely competitor Yevgeny Lukyanenko.

“Rocketman” Hooker, whose mother was an Olympic long jumper and father a Commonwealth Games runner, won Australia’s first track and field gold medal since Cathy Freeman in Sydney 2000. At 5.90m, Lukyanenko and Hooker traded misses until the Russian faltered on his third and last try. That left Hooker to clear the height, with a gold medal on the line.

He sped down the runway, pushed hard off the bar and cleared it, his mouth wide with delight as he thumped to the landing bags. His coach, Alex Parnov, jumped the fence and ran into the arms of the lanky Hooker.

STEVE Hooker, who once feared the pole vault so much that he struggled to get off the ground, soared to an Olympic gold medal in the Bird’s Nest Stadium early this morning.

The 26-year-old became the first Australian man to win an Olympic medal in the daredevil event, completing a series of clutch jumps in a nerve-racking duel with Russia’s steely competitor Yevgeny Lukyanenko.

“Rocketman” Hooker, whose mother was an Olympic long jumper and father a Commonwealth Games runner, won Australia’s first track and field gold medal since Cathy Freeman in Sydney 2000. At 5.90m, Lukyanenko and Hooker traded misses until the Russian faltered on his third and last try. That left Hooker to clear the height, with a gold medal on the line.

He sped down the runway, pushed hard off the bar and cleared it, his mouth wide with delight as he thumped to the landing bags. His coach, Alex Parnov, jumped the fence and ran into the arms of the lanky Hooker.

But the highlight was Hooker’s extraordinary performance capped by the emotional celebration with coach Parnov.

After winning the gold, Hooker went on to clear an Olympic record height of 5.96m.

Hooker, who hails from Melbourne but is based in Perth with pole vault guru Parnov – who also coached 2000 silver medallist Tatiana Grigorieva – has been one of Australia’s strongest performers on the international circuit for three years and was ranked number one in the world in 2006.

He failed to make good on that promise in 2007, bombing out at the world championships.
But he was in the process of changing his technique, with the aim of going higher than ever before. It paid off when he cleared 6m in Perth early this year and then 5.97m in his last competition in Europe before the Games, again in a duel with Lukyanenko.

They went into the Olympic final as the in-form jumpers and they played a cat-and-mouse game with each other over more than two and a half hours last night.

Hooker led early on in the event when he cleared 5.60m on his first attempt, but he dropped back when he missed his first two tries at 5.80m, while Lukyanenko went to first position when he didn’t miss.

The competition tightened at 5.90m, as Lukyanenko and Hooker went jump for jump, but it was eventually the Australian who prevailed on a day that will go down as one of the greatest for Australian athletics.

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