In this website at the start of home Olympic year, Charles van Commenee was pondering where a surprise medal might materialise for the British track and field squad this summer. "Maybe one of the high-jump boys will come good," said the head coach of UK Athletics. Just three weeks later, one of those British high-jump boys is standing on top of the world rankings.
It remains to be seen whether Robbie Grabarz can get a foothold on the rostrum when it matters most in 2012 but the 24-year-old's winning performance at Wuppertal in Germany last Saturday was world class. The one-time Cambridgeshire county hockey player cleared 2.34 metres, improving the lifetime best he set in Birmingham two weeks previously by five centimetres and taking victory ahead of Aleksey Dmitrik, the Russian who took silver at the World Championships in Daegu last summer.
It elevated Grabarz (whose surname derives from his Polish grandfather) to joint third on the UK all-time list – behind Steve Smith (2.38m) and Dalton Grant (2.37m) and alongside Germaine Mason, whose 2.34m lifetime-best jump won Olympic silver in Beijing in 2008. "I wasn't surprised," Grabarz said yesterday. "I've had a great winter of training with my coach, Fuzz Ahmed."
With an Olympic qualifying height to his name and the World Indoor Championships in Istanbul in March looming, the next goal for Grabarz will be the Aviva International Match at the Kelvin Hall in Glasgow on Saturday. "I'm going in to fight for a win and to try to back up what I did last weekend," he said.
Like Mason and the other leading British high-jump boys, Martyn Barnard and Tom Parsons, Grabarz found himself cut from Lottery funding in the autumn. "For me, it's very simple," he said. "I was told my performance targets when I was put on funding and I didn't perform last year. Being funded is a very helpful tool along the journey but it's not the be-all and end-all. It's easy to get caught up thinking you need it. If you really want to do what you want to do, you don't need it. You can get by."
While Grabarz was confirmed yesterday in the Great Britain team for Glasgow, Paula Radcliffe announced that her road to the Olympic marathon would include an appearance in the Vienna City Half-Marathon on 15 April.