'Superman' aims to fly in under the radar
Tomorrow Phillips Idowu plans to take a giant leap towards world domination. But by his standards, it's still low-key
Thursday 23 July 2009
For someone who has been striving to keep a low profile of late, Phillips Idowu was sporting a conspicuously loud piece of headgear yesterday. The word "Boom" was writ large across the triple jumper's baseball cap as he sat in a meeting room looking out on London Bridge, discussing his appearance on the opening day of the Aviva London Grand Prix at Crystal Palace tomorrow night.
Twelve months ago, when he stood undefeated at the top of the world rankings, the north Londoner with the colourful hair and the jangling metallic facial adornments was boldly telling the world: "I feel like Superman. I'm bullet-proof." Having subsequently crashed to earth at the Olympic Games, beaten to the gold medal by a tantalising 5cm, Idowu has been keeping such booming bravado under his hat this summer as he gets ready for a rematch with his Beijing conqueror, Nelson Evora of Portugal, at the world championships in Berlin next month.
"I'm just getting on with the job," the Belgrave Harrier said. "It's probably been easier because a lot of the attention has been taken off me. I don't know how low-key I can be but I'm trying my best."
The trouble is, now that the world championships are starting to loom large on the horizon (they open in the German capital three weeks on Saturday), Idowu's profile is about to rise significantly, the reigning world indoor champion being one of the few realistic British hopes for a medal in Berlin. The 30-year-old happens to be the only male British athlete ranked in the world top 10 this year.
He stands fifth in the triple jump world rankings this year, 6cm behind Evora, who was voted Portugal's Sports Star of the Year – ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo – in the wake of his Beijing success. Evora, an absentee from Crystal Palace, occupies pole position among the global hop, step and jump fraternity in 2009.
Aside from Mara Yamauchi, who has been ruled out of the marathon because of a foot problem, only one British woman has a top six ranking, so the pressure will be on Idowu and Jessica Ennis, the world's No 1 heptathlete thus far in 2009, to deliver in Berlin. "It's good to know that people think that you should be winning gold medals," Idowu insisted. "I'm confident. I'm jumping well.
"I've only lost once this year. Nelson beat me at the European team championships on his home ground but I beat him four days later in Spain. Over the years I've beaten him a lot more than he's beaten me."
Like his old rival Jonathan Edwards before him, Idowu draws strength from his Christian beliefs. "It has helped," he said. "I don't feel as pressured when I go into competitions. With God by my side, I'll get the performances I need. I don't stress myself too much."
The two-day Crystal Palace meeting is a virtual sell-out, one of the last few hundred tickets having been requested by Kevin Pietersen before the surgery that ruled him out of the rest of the Ashes series. It remains to be seen whether the stricken swashbuckler will still take his seat to watch his super-fast buddy Usain Bolt in the 100 metres tomorrow. The world's fastest man revealed on Tuesday that the England batsman was one of his cricketing heroes and that the pair had become friends. KP is nuts about Bolt, too, evidently.
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