Idowu quits home in hunt on elusive Olympic gold

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The Independent Online

Having seen Olympic gold slip through his grasp by 5cm in Beijing's "Bird's Nest" arena last August, Phillips Idowu says he is leaving no margin for error in his long-term mission to get hold of a chunk of the most prized sporting metal in 2012.

Unbeaten in 2008 until he finished a tantalisingly close runner-up behind Portugal's Nelson Evora in the triple jump final in the Chinese capital (a silver medal that left him "pissed off, hurt and upset"), the Belgrave Harrier with the colourful hair and the effervescent personality is living 115 miles away from his friends, his family and his girlfriend to fully concentrate on perfecting his hopping, stepping and jumping, and to make sure he suffers no slip-ups on the way to the top of the podium in three and a half years' time.

To get to the pinnacle in London in 2012, the Hackney man has left his home town and moved to Birmingham so that he can train full-time under the guidance of his coach, Aston Moore.

"There's just me and my dog," Idowu said yesterday. "She's a Japanese akita called Angel." Asked whether he had settled into England's second city, he confessed: "Not 100 per cent yet. It's not home, but it's for the greater good."

For the past week, Idowu has been away from Birmingham at UK Athletics' warm-weather training camp at Potchefstroom in South Africa. He intends to compete in "one or two" events in the indoor season, probably the Aviva Grand Prix at the National Indoor Arena in Birmingham and the European Indoor Championships in Turin in March, where he would face a re-match with Evora in defence of the continental crown he won on home ground at the NIA two years ago.

All of which are merely stepping stones for the 30-year-old on the road to Olympic redemption. "Yeah, 2012 does feel a long way away, but it also fuels my fire," Idowu said. "I've got four years to make sure that it is not possible for me to make a mistake – to iron out all the creases and clean up, to pick up every single medal it's possible to pick up between now and then.

"A lot of people probably think me being 33 by the time London comes around means I may be beyond my best, but I feel I've only now started to reach the potential people have been talking about for the last six years."

After linking up with Moore on the eve of the 2008 outdoor season, Idowu showed a new level of consistency last summer leading up to Beijing. He jumped a season's best in the final there, 17.62m, but Evora jumped 17.67m. The big frustration for Idowu was that he had ventured out to 17.75m when winning the world indoor title in Valencia in March and had been showing signs of joining world record holder Jonathan Edwards and Kenny Harrison as a member of the 18m club.

Idowu's biggest target for this year is the World Championships in Berlin in August. Not that a gold medal there would compensate for the loss he suffered in Beijing. "Nothing will ever make up for it," he said. "But I can't go back and change it. I just have to keep moving forward."

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