Birmingham high jumper Tom Parsons begins his Olympic campaign on Sunday and, after describing conditions in Beijing to ‘living in a cloud’, the 24-year-old will be on cloud nine if he can qualify for the final.
Fifty-four competitors will be jumping off for just 12 places in Tuesday’s final and the Birchfield Harrier is confident he can jump a personal best and make it through.
“A height of 2.32m is the automatic qualifying standard for the final but I don’t think there will be 12 guys who clear that,” Parsons said. “My official personal best is 2.29m and that should be enough to reach the final if I can match it. That is the goal for me, just to reach that final. To make sure I need to clear the bar first time.
“It is not beyond me as my official personal best is still lower than it should be. I cleared 2.30m in the trials and I need to jump another personal best to round off a superb year.
“My training has gone very well and I feel very confident. I am very excited about what I am capable of and I am looking to surprise a few people.”
Parsons, who works part time at Aston University Library, arrived in Beijing on Wednesday but says he is still yet to see the sun.
A combination of rain, cloud and an almost permanent smog across the Chinese capital has lead to murky conditions but Parsons does not believe the weather will have any bearing on his competition.
“Since I arrived from the training camp there have been thunder storms, it has been gloomy and horrible but it should be fine on competition day,” he said. “We have also had quite a lot of smog as well, which makes it feel like we are living in a cloud. Others have seen the sun but I haven’t yet. I am sure it is up there somewhere.
“To be honest I don’t care about the conditions, I just can’t wait for the competition to start. I have been past the Bird’s Nest and it is so impressive and I am looking forward to getting inside to compete.”
Parsons, a devoted Aston Villa fan, who is planning to wear his claret and blue socks underneath his Team GB kit, admits he has surprised himself with his rapid rise, having qualified for last year’s World Championships with a personal best.
He increased that to 2.30m in taking the national title to become the British No?1 at last month’s Olympic Trails at the Alexander Stadium and will head a three-man team which also includes Martyn Bernard and Jermaine Mason.
“British high-jumping has had a bit of a resurgence and that’s good to see,” he said. “A year ago my target would have been 2012. In 2006 I failed to get to the European championships and improved just one centimetre, so I had to change what I was doing and my whole outlook on my technique.”
Parsons’s personal best ranks him fifth on the UK all-time list, although he has some way to go before he challenges Steve Smith, who won a high jump bronze medal in Atlanta 12 years ago.
“I’m still a fair way off the British record and it might be a couple of years yet before I’m pushing Steve’s 2.38m but I’d like to think I could do it if I keep improving year on year,” Parsons adds.
“My first goal for the year was to get over 2.30m and I’ve achieved that. I’m reassessing my targets now but I’ve got to believe that I can make the final and anything can happen after that.”