Commonwealth Games 2014: Phillips Idowu shows no sign of returning to his best

Triple jumper finishes fifth in attempt to exorcise his London misery

Glasgow

The last time Phillips Idowu made the headlines it was for a drink-driving ban. Less a case of hop, skip and jump, more cop, hick and for the high jump.

But the man who once described himself as jumping in a sandpit for a living was back to what he knows best in his first major competition since London 2012. The only problem was that he wasn't anywhere near his best, the Londoner finishing fifth, a disappointing account for an athlete ranked second this year in the field.

Even if he had finished in the medals, this would not have meant that Idowu was back in the big time; after all he claims simply to be "winging it" on his return. The fact is that his best attempt of 16.53m at the Olympics was not enough for him to make it to the final, but it was better by eight centimetres than what he achieved in Glasgow, one legal jump amid a myriad of fouls as South Africa's Khotso Mokoena won gold.

This had been billed as the chance for a first major medal for Idowu since his silver at the 2011 World Championships, after he had taken time out following the massive disappointment of faltering at his home Games.

Hackney born and bred, London 2012 was the biggest moment of his career, a chance to shine on his very own doorstep. His body had other ideas, and a neural problem in his hip and back meant that he was some way short of his best when he took the runway in the capital. He wanted to make Hackney proud; instead he felt that he had let everyone down.

So a break proved a necessity and involved a stint on Celebrity Masterchef, when he cooked crocodile among other ingredients. He remarked that cooking on camera and the triple jump were "worlds apart".

There were none of the usual antics last night in what was a chance for redemption on home soil. The hair was jet-black, the trademark headband, wristbands and long socks bright white, although the facial piercings remain in abundance. But also missing were the jumps of 17.50m he used to land so consistently and convincingly.

Idowu has never appeared entirely happy in his own skin, and with good reason. The Hackney of his youth was one of crack dens and stepping over burnt spoons and used syringes just to get to the front door of the Beauvoir Estate. Even the walk to his primary school was deemed too dangerous without a chaperone.

Growing up, he had a love-hate relationship with athletics, almost quitting it because of the sacrifices it entailed. He gave it one more go and was duly rewarded with world, European and Commonwealth gold, the Olympic title the only one to have eluded him.

At 35 years old, Rio de Janeiro is surely a pipe dream. The next step arguably is a return to National Lottery funding. In October, having announced his decision to take a break from the sport, he was removed from Lottery funding. In the same month he was banned from driving his Land Rover for two years and ordered to pay a fine.

Slowly and behind the scenes he returned to competition in Australia under a new coach, Gary Bourne. There have been none of the spats of his original tenure in the triple jump, although that has coincided with the departure of his former head coach, Charles van Commenee, who labelled him the invisible man. Inside Hampden Park, he was visible once more.

The big question is: what next? What he does know is that he will be at the European Championships in Zurich this month, for what will be his second appearance in 2014 in a Great Britain jersey, having finished fifth at the European Team Championships in June.

What happens there may play a big part in what future lies in store for Idowu. The athlete, who once sold hot dogs as a child outside Leyton Orient's stadium, has never been one to enjoy jumping in the rain. On the road back to the triple jump, and having seen in training and other competitions what he called "flashes of his best", he will simply be hoping that this is a one‑off blip in his hop, skip and jump.

Arts and Entertainment
Ramsay Bolton in Game of Thrones
tvSeries 5, Episode 3 review
News
peoplePair enliven the Emirates bore-draw
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband (R) and Boris Johnson, mayor of London, talk on the Andrew Marr show in London April 26
General electionAndrew Marr forced to intervene as Boris and Miliband clash on TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Hotel Reception Manager

£18750 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Hotel in Chadderton is a popular ch...

Recruitment Genius: Designer

£32969 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is going through a period o...

Recruitment Genius: Data Engineer

£35000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Data Engineer is required to ...

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence