Robbie Grabarz: Taste of Stratford has fuelled motivation of high jumper


It was this time last year that Robbie Grabarz found himself at a crossroads. He had just turned 24 and his athletics career was seemingly going nowhere.

The Cambridgeshire high jumper had failed to qualify for the British team for the main event of the pre-Olympic year, the 2011 World Championships in Daegu, South Korea. He had finished the outdoor season ranked 44th in the world, with a best jump of 2.28 metres. And he had just discovered he had been totally dropped from Lottery funding.

On the table was an offer to pursue his dream job away from the sporting arena: restoring classic cars. Grabarz thought long and hard about a change of direction.

"I was pretty close to taking up the job offer," he confesses. "It was on the table, ready to go, and it had a two-week deadline on it – do you want this job or not?

"I took myself away and said, 'Do I really want to go and restore cars for a living? Or do I want to give high jumping one last shot?'

"It was a tough decision, because that kind of job offer doesn't come along very often, but obviously I made the right decision."

He did that. Twelve months on, instead of tinkering around with carburettors for a living, Grabarz has established himself among the global elite of track and field. In June he won the European high jump title in Helsinki. In early August he won an Olympic bronze medal in London. And at the end of the 2012 outdoor season he scooped the $40,000 (£24,800) prize as the top high jumper in the IAAF's Diamond League series.

The fateful decision to give athletics one last shot came not just after the car restorer job offer but after a heart-to-heart talk in which Grabarz's coach, Fuzz Ahmed, had told him he needed to change his attitude drastically if he was to have any hope of realising his rich potential.

"To be honest, I think it helped me make a clearer decision, because the offer was there to go," Grabarz says. "It wasn't just, 'Don't do track any more.' It was a matter of, 'Don't do it and you've got something else to go and do straight away.'

"It made it real. It wasn't just a light-hearted decision – 'Ah, I don't know what else I want to do, I'll keep doing the track and field.' It was, 'Do you really want to do this yet or jump high.' And I decided to pull my finger out and start performing."

He did so from the breadline – a position several of his Olympic team-mates now find themselves in after the announcement of the Lottery funding list for 2012-13 this week.

It was only when he began hitting the heights in the indoor season in January that Grabarz started to earn money to fund himself. This time, he is on the World Class Performance list issued by UK Athletics and will receive an estimated £55,000 a year.

"I've achieved a lot without that funding and support and I think I can achieve even more with it," Grabarz says. "My coach is supported by UK Athletics and UK Sport and that has directly affected me in that he has all the time in the world to dedicate to me. The fact that I'll have full access all the time to the medical services – things like that – is going to be phenomenal.

"You're looking to add small percentages to what you've already got. I think that's where you make the difference. Going into next year, the support of UK Athletics can only help me do that."

It should also be a help that Grabarz has been left with a lingering hunger from 2012. Olympic bronze was a stunning achievement but his form on the Diamond League circuit – he jumped 2.37m in Lausanne in August, equalling Steve Smith's UK outdoor record – showed his undoubted world-beating potential.

"I've got a massive motivation," he says. "I've achieved a lot but I've not done anything perfectly this year. There's so much more to improve upon and do better.

"I've probably got more fire in my belly after this year than I've ever had before. I've had a taste for it and I want more of it."

Back in training after a two-week break in Australia, Grabarz is already laying the foundations for the 2013 indoor season. As he reflects on his breakthrough year, though, which memory from 2012 will stand above all?

"The roar of the crowd in the Olympic Stadium will last with me for ever," Grabarz says.

"But I think the thing I'm proudest of is the turnaround that I have made in jumping consistently well. I think winning the Diamond League proves the fact that you've jumped high all year – and beaten the best guys in the world regularly."

Robbie Grabarz is an ambassador for Alfa Romeo, official car supplier to UK Athletics. visit:

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: HR Manager

£36000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Ashdown Group: HR Manager Shared Services - Uxbridge, - 1 Year contract

£50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager Shared Services - Uxbridge, Stock...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Human Resource Officer and Executive Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join one of...

Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events business) - Central Manchester - £20K

£18000 - £20000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events busi...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk