Phillips Idowu will return to competition in New York today for the first time since failing to qualify for last summer’s Olympic triple jump final.
The 34-year-old’s build-up to the Games was dogged by injury and intrigue as his increasingly fractious relationship with UK Athletics was laid bare. In the end, a series of problems – neural issues, a jarred hip and pain in the back of his knees – meant he lacked the form and fitness even to jump his way into the Olympic final, let alone have medal aspirations.
In his absence, the American Christian Taylor took Olympic gold and will be the favourite to win the Diamond League competition in New York.
The Big Apple is a fitting venue for Idowu, one of athletics’ bigger characters, the dyed hair and pierced tongue taking to the triple jump runway in anger for the first time in nine months. In that intervening time, Idowu, as was always the plan, has relocated to London after a stint in Birmingham with coach Aston Moore. The pair have also parted, the 2009 world champion now working with Femi Akinsanya, a protégé of Moore’s.
Over the winter, Idowu also took part in a Comic Relief trek down 100 kilometres (62.5 miles) of the Zambezi, entitled Hell and High Water. Where he is in terms of his form this early in the season is impossible to predict. The Londoner has been remarkably under the radar since London 2012.
After the Olympics, he looked disconsolate. “It’s just that I wanted to do Hackney, London and the UK proud,” he said. “I don’t feel I did that and I feel I’ve let a lot of people down who supported me and were rooting for me.” Idowu will be keen to make amends in 2013 and, last year’s Olympics aside, he has habitually been a championship performer. He is a past world, European and Commonwealth Games champion and took silver at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
But at 34, it remains to be seen if he is still at his peak, while Taylor, the dominant force in triple jumping, has been tipped to break Jonathan Edwards’ 18-year-old world record of 18.29 metres. Taylor’s current best is 17.96m, while Idowu’s best is 17.81m.
Also in action in New York is the pole vaulter Holly Bleasdale, who will be hoping to translate her form from the indoor season, when she won the European Championships.
Fellow Briton Shara Proctor will compete in the long jump while Eilish McColgan – daughter of former 10,000m world champion Liz – takes part in the 3,000m steeplechase, and Michael Bingham runs the 400m.