'Invisible man' Phillips Idowu to disappear once more

Triple jumper will miss World Championships and is out for the 'foreseeable future'

The so-called invisible man of British athletics, Phillips Idowu, is to take a break from the sport for the foreseeable future.

The Londoner insisted his decision was a mere au revoir in a sporting career during which he has won every major championship medal bar the Olympic title, which eluded the Hackney athlete so painfully on his doorstep last year, but it is hard to see how, at 34, he will come back from this.

It was in the build-up to the Games that the former UK Athletics head coach Charles van Commenee branded Idowu the "invisible man", the latest jab in some very public jousting between the pair. That acrimony could prove an unfortunate finale to Idowu's career after his decision to withdraw from the sport, meaning he will miss the World Championships in Moscow next month.

"After some careful consideration, I have decided that for the foreseeable future, I will be taking a step back from athletics," he said.

"I feel this is the right time for me to make this decision and it's not a choice I've made lightly. I greatly appreciate all of the support I have received over the past years, particularly from the British public and my team and my sponsors; it has been an extremely happy and successful time. I'm excited about pursuing other interests and taking other opportunities that present themselves to me during the break."

His first task is to swap his spikes for a spatula as one of the contestants in the latest series of Celebrity Masterchef. Quite what else is on the menu for one of the more mercurial figures in British athletics remains to be seen. When London was announced as the Olympic host city eight years ago in Singapore, the event seemed a fitting, hopefully golden, finale to Idowu.

However, the highlight of his career came in 2009, when he won gold at the World Championships in Berlin. That came a year after the Beijing Olympics, when he had been bitterly disappointed with the silver medal. Idowu jumped his way to the European title in 2010 to add to a Commonwealth title won in Melbourne in 2006.

But London proved a career nadir: a litany of hip, leg and knee injuries curtailed his preparations, and he failed to qualify for the final. After that, he insisted his goal was this year's World Championships. He even claimed to have aspirations to compete at the next Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. At the time, such a boast seemed fanciful, and now it seems even more unlikely.

Idowu insists he plans to carry on in the sport but, if not, events in London as well as his last competition a month ago, a leap of 16.41 metres in Rome's Stadio Olimpico – some way short of his personal best of 17.81m – would be a sad end to an illustrious career.

Neil Black, the UK Athletics performance director, said: "It's a big, brave decision for Phil and, whilst we're sad to see him hang up his spikes for now, he's had a fantastic career. I and many of my colleagues feel privileged to have worked alongside him through the ups and downs of a long career."

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