High jump champ Tom Parsons has had August 5 marked in his calendar for a while. He tells Brian Dick his hopes for Olympic glory.
As a rule, international athletes do not require external sources of motivation.
However, should Tom Parsons need added incentive for those extra five reps or a couple more crucial centimetres, the prospect of the best seat in the Olympic Stadium might just do it.
Despite the disappointment he suffered in last year’s World Championships, the Birchfield Harrier is a genuine hope for London 2012, the event an entire generation of British athletes has been working towards for several years.
For Parsons, August 5 has been ringed on his calendar for just as long as the date of the qualification rounds for the high jump. Luckily for him, his appointment with destiny coincides with the men’s 100 metres final and Usain Bolt’s imminent canonisation.
As he jumps for his own slice of glory, Parsons will be just a few metres away from history.
“The atmosphere should be amazing,” the 27-year-old says. “The crowd will be buzzing and the support for British guys will be crazy anyway. Hopefully it’ll give us some kind of advantage.”
All the Great Barr athlete has to do now is make sure he gets his hand on the hottest sporting ticket of the year.
He does that by clearing 2.31 metres at some stage before July 2 and by finishing in the top two at the trials, which take place on his hometown track at the Alexander Stadium a few days before.
A tall order? For the moderately talented, yes, but Parsons jumped that high in February last year and has finished first or second at the UK Championships for three of the last four years. He expects to do it again.
It is no sinecure though, and the breakthrough of his best friend – fellow Birmingham-based jumper Robbie Grabarz – has literally raised the bar.
The Newham and Essex Beagle soared above
2.34 metres a couple of months ago and, with Samson Oni also having jumped 2.31 metres, initials already pencilled into two of the three spots on the team so the pressure for Parsons to perform is mounting.
Especially since he hasn’t yet competed this year. Parsons had surgery on his left ankle in November and opted to forego an indoor campaign in order to be ready for the outdoor season.
But that decision was miniscule compared to the choice to end his relationship with long-term coach Fuzz Ahmed, the man who guided him to the 2007 World Championship final and eighth place in Beijing the following year.
“I just needed a change,” he explains. “I was not jumping as well as I would have liked in championships and wasn’t sure why.
“It felt like my body wasn’t quite strong enough and that I was peaking too early and not at the right time of the season.”
Instead, Parsons has joined Aston Moore’s eclectic training group, which also includes 2009 World triple jump champion Phillips Idowu and Commonwealth heptathlon gold medallist Louise Hazel.
His specialist, technical advice now comes from Graham Ravenscroft and already, despite not having yet competed under the new regime, Parsons claims he is seeing the benefits.
“I am running well, bounding better and doing a lot more plyometrics and hopping exercises – generally trying to become more powerful.”
Parsons will fly out to Portugal for warm weather training next month and hopes for an invitation to compete in the BUCS Visa Outdoor Athletics Championships – this year being staged as a test event at the Olympic Stadium.
That will be the first step on the road that includes jumping the qualifying standard, making it through the trials and then back to London for what could be the defining event of his career.
“My plan has always been to go to three Olympics, I’ve done Beijing, there’s London and I’d like to carry on to Rio,” he says.
“I’ll be 28 in London which means I should be at my best.
“I just hope I can produce it because I have been thinking about the Olympics since the last ones. You focus all your long-term goals on four-year cycles.
“If I get there I am capable of getting to the final and then anything can happen from there.”
Especially if Usain Bolt is around.