There’s something innately frustrating about interviewing Robbie Grabarz, Britain’s most improved athlete and one of our leading contenders for Olympic gold.
The 24-year-old from Birmingham is courteous, expansive, amusing even and he seems perfectly happy to answer anything that’s put to him.
But – and this says more about simple-minded journalists than it does about the world’s second best high jumper – there’s no secret weapon, no ground-breaking diet nor cutting edge training technique to explain his mind-boggling improvement.
You see, it’s much easier to write about Novak Djokovic’s transition to a gluten-free life or Graham Obree’s bike made from washing machine parts, and sports stories are enriched by an epiphany or a Eureka moment.
But Grabarz hasn’t gone in for that. “If I had thought about it and challenged myself I could have done this years ago. But I was happy then as well,” is all he says. There is no secret.
How did you respond to losing your lottery funding by setting three personal bests and taking the European title in your first major championships? “I decided to.”
Was there a moment when it all came together? “Not really, I just worked hard through the winter.”
How did it feel to set a new PB in your first competition of the year? “I would have been surprised if I hadn’t performed.”
Do you mind all the attention you get now? “I knew I was going to perform well so I expected all of this to come with it.
Right that’s fine then, interview over, thanks for your time. I’ve decided I’m going to beat Usain Bolt over 100 metres so I must dash.
And therein lies the secret, extraordinary natural ability. Clearly my chances of skinning Bolt are more than slightly undermined by the odd physical shortcoming or 20.
Grabarz, though, has been a slow burner for many years, known to everyone in the sport as an athlete who would be a seriously good if he ever put his mind to it. And so he did.
If there was a watershed it lasted several months. “I had a really bad 2011, I thought ‘I don’t want this to happen again’, or end a season thinking ‘Another waste of a year’.
“So I took myself away, had a few harsh words with my coach and made sure this is what I want to do and what I love doing. I came back and decided this is what I want to do and there’s nothing else.”
It was a simple case, therefore, of returning to winter training and trying hard at each and every session, not cutting corners or letting his mind wander as he had in the past.
And there we have it, a nice, neat, facile explanation. Grabarz, who had dropped out of university, had a commitment problem.
“You have got to get yourself in a position where you know this is what you want to do.” he says.
“And then you challenge yourself to be not afraid of failing. It’s easy to give yourself excuses.
“But I made myself accountable for all of my actions, words and the decisions I made so they are my fault or my rewards.
“I can give it that 100 per cent knowing I can’t blame it on this, that or the other. It’s easier to be scared of committing to something and not trying.”
The inference is that it is much more difficult to find and then accept the limitations to one’s talent. Which luckily for him isn’t something he’s had to do.
Only three men in the world have jumped higher than the 2.36m that astonished everybody in the Diamond League meeting in New York last month.
And if the Russians have responded in kind, Andrey Silnov has rediscovered the form that brought gold in Beijing and Ivan Ukhov smashed his PB with 2.39m at his national championships a few weeks ago, Grabarz is still a contender.
And, in his mind at least, not just a contender but the contender. “You have to dream about gold, every guy in the final will be dreaming it as well, probably for longer than I have.
“You dream it and you give yourself an opportunity to achieve it as well. Everyone will be dreaming about that gold medal and I am no different.
“I think I dropped a few jaws in my Diamond League meet and in New York when those guys saw me perform like that and probably didn’t know who I am.
“I like that. I like to shock people and be understated and then just do something.
“I am not particularly eloquent, I’d like to just lay it down on the track and then answer questions rather than big myself up. It would be nice to surprise everyone.”
After all Grabarz has spent all of 2012 surprising everyone – except himself.