Robbie Grabarz: London gold the aim of his naked ambition

New attitude sees high jumper leap to second in the world — via a spot of nude modelling

As recently as the start of this London Olympic year, Robbie Grabarz could roll up for training without turning a single head. Having failed to qualify for the World Championships in Daegu last summer, he was off the Lottery funding list and off the media radar.

It is different now. There were camera crews and reporters queuing up to speak to the 24-year-old Cambridgeshire athlete as he went about his high-jumping business at the UK Athletics High Performance Centre on the north side of Birmingham yesterday afternoon.

At the end of 2011 Grabarz was 44th in the world in his event. Six weeks out from the 2012 Olympics, he is joint-second – alongside Jesse Williams, the American who won the world title last summer.

On his Diamond League debut in Rome, the week before last, Grabarz beat Williams, maintaining his composure to clear 2.33 metres first time, amid the din surrounding Usain Bolt's appearance in the 100m. Last weekend in New York the world champion beat the Briton, but only on the countback system after both men cleared 2.36m.

Grabarz showed a hint of what was to come with a 2.34m jump indoors at Wuppertal in Germany in January and any doubts that he had the wherewithal to cut it with the world's highest fliers have been removed in the last fortnight. He has established himself as a big new medal hope for the home Games – hence the sudden attention being paid to the former Cambridgeshire county hockey player.

"I'm enjoying it," Grabarz said. "It's what comes with jumping high. I expected to jump high this year, so it's not like it's a surprise to me."

It might have surprised some that Grabarz chose to increase his exposure by posing naked for the gay magazine Attitude, his modesty protected only by a strategically-placed Union Jack. When he attended the photo-shoot, he was asked what Charles van Commenee, the head coach of UK Athletics, might think of him following in the bare sporting footsteps of David Beckham, Freddie Ljungberg and Gareth Thomas. "He'll probably smile, shake his head and say, 'So long as you jump high in the summer I couldn't care less what you get up to in your spare time,'" Grabarz replied.

So had van Commenee said anything since the magazine was published? "He came up to me and said he'd read what I'd said and that I'd summed him up perfectly," Grabarz said, chuckling. "He said, 'That's exactly what I would have done.'

"I have no regrets about doing it. I had a great time. I don't have a problem about being naked anyway. It was just all good fun."

It just so happens that the one high jumper above Grabarz in the world rankings right now is the man who has probably brought more exposure to the event than anyone since Dick Fosbury did his Flop. Russia's Ivan Ukhov, who cleared 2.37m at Opole in Poland last Saturday, attracted 2.5million hits on YouTube for his slapstick antics while drunk on vodka and Red Bull at the Lausanne Grand Prix in September 2008.

Grabarz himself has confessed to being something of a party animal. He attributes his 2012 transformation to a change of attitude, a focusing of attention since the failure of 2011, under the guidance of his coach, Fuzz Ahmed, a former international high jumper who is also a part-time actor who has appeared in EastEnders and The Bill.

"A great deal of it is down to Fuzz," Grabarz said. "He has challenged me a lot and inspired me to move on."

Robbie Grabarz is an ambassador for Alfa Romeo – official car supplier to UK Athletics. Visit: www.alfaromeo.co.uk

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

SharePoint Administrator/Developer (C#, VB.NET, VISUAL STUDIO 2

£35000 - £50000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: SharePoi...

European HR Director, London

£80000 - £95000 per annum: Charter Selection: A leading Global organisation Ja...

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit