Not long after the storm clouds burst over Montjuic last night, the 11 contestants in the opening final of the day at the European Championships entered the arena to the strains of "Singin' in the Rain". Twirling an umbrella as he made his way to the high jump area, Martyn Bernard was not only singing but dancing in the Catalonian precipitation. "It rained; I had an umbrella; what else am I supposed to do?" he reasoned later, with a shrug of the shoulders.
Like a latter day Gene Kelly or Eric Morecambe, he revelled in the wet stuff. As more fancied medal contenders sank without trace, the unfancied Briton proved to be a class act, seizing the hand of opportunity and the bronze – a 60th birthday present for his mother, Ermine. Remarkably, he did it with an injured heel and with just the two successful clearances – the first one at 2.23m, the second at 2.29m – while Aleksander Shustov and Ivan Ukhov completed a one-two for Russia, jumping 2.33m and 2.31m respectively.
For Bernard, it was another medal to set alongside the silver he won at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne in 2006 and the bronze he gleaned from the European Indoor Championships on home ground in Birmingham a year later. It was also a pay-off for moving lock, stock and barrel from Liverpool to London last autumn, at the threat from Charles van Commenee, the head coach of UK Athletics, of losing his Lottery funding.
Bernard now trains under the direction of Dan Pfaff, the American who guided Donovan Bailey to Olympic gold as a 100m runner, at the Lee Valley Athletics Centre in North London. "Charles told me to move to London or I was off funding," he reflected. "Did I mind? No, not at all. He's a direct guy and I like that. Less than a year later I've got a medal here and I'll improve from this next year.
"I've got a bruised heel and the doc gave me a jab right before the start so it's a bit numb but I got out there and got good heights. I was happy that it rained. It put some people off their game. I don't mind jumping in the rain, or singing in it for that matter. It's really great to come back from injury with a medal. I missed the World Championships last year after an ankle operation. I had to sit that one out. Well, I went to Ibiza."