Athletics: Idowu primed for lift-off after crash-landing

European Indoors: Triple jumper who felt a loser in Athens can be a linchpin in Madrid

It remains to be seen whether Dame Kelly Holmes will continue her grand winter tour by treading the boards in the Palacio de Deportes in Madrid on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The star of the Athens Olympics has yet to decide whether her exhausting round of the celebrity circuit has blunted her racing edge too much for her to enter the cut and thrust of the European Indoor Championships.

It remains to be seen whether Dame Kelly Holmes will continue her grand winter tour by treading the boards in the Palacio de Deportes in Madrid on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The star of the Athens Olympics has yet to decide whether her exhausting round of the celebrity circuit has blunted her racing edge too much for her to enter the cut and thrust of the European Indoor Championships.

Should she decide against putting her golden reputation on the line, the great irony would be that Great Britain's hopes of finding a Midas touch in the Spanish capital would be largely pinned on a young man who sneaked away from the spotlight in Athens and spent the next five months avoiding the limelight.

The night before the future Dame Kelly struck her first gold in the Olympic Stadium, in the women's 800m final, Phillips Idowu sank to rock bottom in the men's triple- jump final. The Belgrave Harrier started the competition as a strong contender for a medal but crashed out after registering not three but four no-jumps. (Controversially, his second-round effort had to be retaken after pit-side officials discovered that his foot had not in fact marked the plasticine on the take-off board, en route to a mark of around 17.40m that was immediately wiped from the sand because of the red flag that was prematurely raised).

"I felt like a loser," Idowu said, reflecting on his state of mind as he walked out of the Olympic Stadium while the eight top-ranked jumpers each took another three attempts to determine the medal placings. "I'd flown to Athens to try to win a gold medal and I was out after three rounds of the final. I just wanted to get back home and forget about the whole thing. It took me a while."

When he got back to his home in north London, Idowu packed away his Great Britain kit and spent the next two weeks "drinking and partying". "I travelled up and down the UK, just trying to go places where I wouldn't be recognised," he recalled.

Given his distinctively kaleidoscopic range of dyed hairstyles, it is difficult to imagine Idowu donning a cloak of anonymity, although he evidently achieved it in Chesham. "I think that was the most obscure place I went to," he said. "I kept away from the athletics scene. I didn't go to the end-of-season dinners and awards ceremonies. I just wanted to do my thing and keep away from the spotlight. I felt like I'd let down myself and the nation. I was a medal hope and it just didn't work out."

It might just work out for Idowu in Madrid, though. He heads there as the clear leader of the European rankings after his first serious venture at indoor competition. Back in his days as a student at Brunel University, he remembers taking one jump at an indoor college match in Birmingham, wearing basketball boots and a baseball cap. Two weeks ago, sporting a striking gold-streaked mane at the Norwich Union AAA Indoor Championships in Sheffield, Idowu jumped 17.30m in the final round, temporarily to head the world rankings for 2005.

Walter Davis of the United States has since achieved a mark of 17.62m, but the brightly topped Briton remains unchallenged at the summit of the European rankings - 19cm clear of the Belarus athlete Dmitriy Valyukevich.

Gold in Madrid would appear to be beckoning Idowu - particularly as the Swede Christian Olsson, the reigning Olympic, world and European champion, is resting an injured ankle this winter. Not that a medal would fill the void that opened up for the 25-year-old in Athens.

"Nah, it won't make up for that," he reflected. "The only thing that will make up for that is me going to Beijing and rectifying the mistakes I made in 2004."

Nevertheless, a European indoor title would be a first international championship success for the richly talented if occasionally erratic successor to Jonathan Edwards as Britain's standard-bearer in the triple jump. With his hair dyed in the red and white of the St George flag, Idowu came tantalising close to claiming Commonwealth gold ahead of Edwards in Manchester three years ago. He led the final with a mighty second-round jump of 17.68m, only to be relegated to the silver-medal position when Edwards uncorked a 17.86m in the last round.

Now, with his former rival scrutinising from the BBC television commentary box, Idowu is attempting to match the footsteps of the man who hopped, stepped and jumped to Commonwealth, European, world and Olympic gold - and to a trio of world records. The distance Idowu jumped in Sheffield was bettered by Edwards in indoor competition on just four occasions. And in Madrid he hopes not just to match the one title that Edwards secured in his career on the boards - at the 1998 European Indoor Champion-ships in Valencia - but also to eclipse the UK indoor record held by the Gateshead Harrier: 17.64m.

Longer-term, as well as his golden goal for Beijing, Idowu is aiming to follow Edwards over the 18m barrier. "I believe I can jump far," he said. "Me and my coach, John Herbert, are working towards that."

It happens to be 10 years now since Edwards ventured beyond 18m, jumping first 18.16m, then 18.29m at the 1995 World Championships in Gothenburg. "I can't remember exactly where I was when he did it," Idowu confessed. "I was still a schoolboy in Bethnal Green at the time.

"I do remember going down to the track in Mile End the next day and measuring out 18.29m - just to see how far it was. I remember thinking, 'Yeah, that's not too bad. If I increase a metre a year, I can get that. All I need to do is hop about 6m, step about 6m, and jump about 6m...' "

After the anguish of crashing out in Athens, it was good to see the man with the gold hair and the golden triple-jump potential break down with a hearty laughing fit.

Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
tv
Sport
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Voices
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
music
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvName confirmed for third series
Sport
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
art
Caption competition
Caption competition
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

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
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