• MONACO PREVIEW: Hooker ready for 2011 debut
    MONACO PREVIEW: Hooker ready for 2011 debut © Athletics Australia

Athletics Australia - News - MONACO PREVIEW: Hooker ready for 2011 debut

World and Olympic champion Steve Hooker believes the pole vault competition is wide open this year, as he prepares to compete for the first time since winning Commonwealth gold in New Delhi last October.

Hooker has spent the last month in London, finalising his training for the season while also keeping one eye on preparations for the Olympics. And while he is modest about his own expectations from his first competition in 2011, the 29-year-old is also well aware that none of his rivals have dominated the event in his absence.

European champion Renaud Lavillenie (FRA) currently leads the Diamond Race and has been the most consistent of the leading pack, having won in Paris, Lausanne and Rome but also having fallen foul to a no height in New York.

Former world champion Brad Walker (USA) cleared the world’s leading mark of 5.84m last month, but has yet to win a Samsung Diamond League event. Walker, Lavillenie and Hooker will be joined in Monaco tomorrow night by Malte Mohr (GER) and Romain Mesnil (FRA).

Hooker said: “[The move to London] It’s worked really well, we are based in South London and I’m happy with how everything has gone over the past couple of weeks, but I’m just looking forward to competition really.

“I’ve got pretty limited expectations, the main goal is to get the swing of being in a competition again – it’s been nine months. I’m not thinking about jumping high, I’m thinking about entering the competition at a low height to try and jump a lot of heights. That’s the goal, have as many jumps as I can and get back into the swing of competition.

“It’s the usual suspects, the top guys in the world this year with Brad, Renaud and Malte all in action so they’ll be the main opposition, but as we’ve seen already this year, each one is wide open.

“Competitions with good conditions have been few and far between for the guys this year, which explains why the best height is 5.84m from Brad. If the conditions are good, which they usually are in Monaco, then I think we can expect to see some good jumping and it will be interesting to see where we are all at.”

As the Australian Flame captain, Hooker is also looking forward to seeing his teammates in Monaco, where he is joined by a number of compatriots, each with different agendas. Sally Pearson leads that charge, having set a new Australian record and world-lead time of 12.48 in the 100m hurdles.

Hooker said: “Sal is unbelievable at the moment, she loves racing in Monaco, but she doesn’t need me adding to her own expectations. I’m just really looking forward to watching her racing because I love the way she goes about it, she just gives it a real crack.”

Pearson emphatically defeated Danielle Carruthers (USA), Kellie Wells (USA) and Tiffany Ofili-Porter (GBR) in Birmingham, all of whom line up again with her in Monaco.

Another athlete who was in action at the previous Samsung Diamond League meet was Craig Mottram, who ran a 5000m qualifying time. He will face stiff competition once again from Britain’s Mo Farah, as well as Bernard Lagat (USA) and the fastest 5000m athletes in the world this year, Imane Merga (ETH) and Isaiah Kiplangat Koech (KEN).

Ryan Gregson and Jeff Riseley are both hoping to clock 1500m qualifying times, for the world championships next month, in the only non Diamond League race of the meet. They will need to run sub 03:35.00, a time that nine of the 15 athletes on the start-list have run this season, including Kenyan Nixon Kiplimo Chepseba.

Hooker added: “Buster (Craig Mottram) is looking for a fast race and as we saw in his last run he is ready to take advantage of it. Monaco is a good venue for distance running also, so I think if the conditions are right then he’s ready to take another big step forward.

“Ryan broke the Aussie record in Monaco last year, it’s a great place to run and we have already seen from both of them that they are in shape. As with Buster, the conditions can be really good in Monaco for distance races, so I’m looking forward to seeing how they both go.”

Kaila McKnight will go in the 1500m, a field which includes all three 2009 world championship medalists, Maryam Jamal (BRN), Lisa Dobriskey (GBR) and Shannon Rowbury (USA).

Finally, reigning world champion Dani Samuels will open the program in the women’s discus where she will face familiar opponents Yarelis Barrios (CUB), Stephanie Brown-Trafton (USA) and Nadine Muller (GER).

Other highlights to look out for include Usain Bolt (JAM) in the men’s 100m, against compatriot Michael Frater (JAM), Michael Rogers (USA) and Christophe Lemaitre (FRA). On the back of the news that Teddy Tamgho (FRA) will miss the world championships in Daegu through injury, defending champion Phillips Idowu (GBR) goes into the triple jump against old foe Christian Olsson (SWE).

While David Rudisha (KEN) will look to continue his unbeaten run in the 800m, which stems back to the semi-finals of the world championships two years ago in Berlin.

The Samsung Diamond League in Monaco, 22 July, will start at 3am (AEST). Event times as follows:

19:00PM (03:00AM Saturday, July 23 AEST)
Discus throw:
Dani Samuels (23, NSW)

19:55 (03:55AM Saturday, July 23 AEST)
Pole vault:
Steve Hooker (29, WA)

20:15 (04:15AM Saturday, July 23 AEST)
Ryan Gregson (21, NSW), Jeff Riseley (24, Vic)

20:55 (04:55AM Saturday, July 23 AEST)
Craig Mottram (31, Vic)

21:15 (05:15AM Saturday, July 23 AEST)
100m hurdles:
Sally Pearson (24, Qld)

To view and download full start lists for the Monaco Diamond League, please click here.

Athletics Australia - News