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: www.alfaromeo.co.uk

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

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Guru Careers: Graduate Resourcer / Recruitment Account Executive

£18k + Bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking a bright, enthusiastic and internet...

Reach Volunteering: Chair and trustees sought for YMCA Bolton

VOLUNTARY ONLY - EXPENSES REIMBURSED: Reach Volunteering: Bolton YMCA is now a...

Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher

£150 - £180 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher Geography teach...

Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher

£150 - £180 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher Geography teach...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?