Simon Turnbull: Rugby star Watt is now making great strides in long jump

Olympic Diary

Two weeks out from the World Athletics Championships in South Korea, and less than a year away from the London Olympics, Mitch Watt is standing in the No 1 spot in the world long jump rankings. At the Aviva London Grand Prix at Crystal Palace last Friday night, the 23-year-old Australian trumped Britain's Chris Tomlinson with a leap of 8.45 metres. Only one athlete has jumped farther in 2011: Watt himself, with an Oceania record of 8.54m at the DN Galan meeting in Stockholm last month.

It might have been different for the golden boy from the Gold Coast. He might have been wearing the No 13 or 15 shirt for Australia in tomorrow's Tri-Nations fixture against South Africa in Durban, preparing for the Rugby World Cup, which starts in New Zealand on 9 September, rather than the World Athletics Championships and Olympic Games.

Back in 2005, Watt was a member of the star-studded Queensland Schools' rugby union XV. He played at outside centre or full-back in a team that also included scrum-half Will Genia, outside-half Quade Cooper and open-side flanker David Pocock, who all started for the Wallabies in their 30-14 defeat against the New Zealand All Blacks last Saturday.

"I did athletics when I was younger," Watt said. "I won a couple of national titles – under-14s and under-15s – but then stopped and started playing rugby. My mates were all playing rugby and I wanted to try something different.

"I ended up making the Queensland Schoolboys' team with Quade Cooper, Will Genia and David Pocock, guys who have gone on to be stars of the Wallaby team. I was an outside back. I played outside centre and full-back. I wouldn't want to compare myself to anyone. I just used my speed."

Would the speedy Brisbane boy not rather be preparing with his old mates for the Rugby World Cup than for the World Athletics Championships? "It's a tough question," Watt said. "I love rugby and I watch every Wallaby game very closely. But I never really felt the desire to go on and dedicate all my time to rugby.

"When Will and Quade started turning professional, I was thinking, 'Oh, maybe I should have stuck with it'. But a few years on now I'm doing well in track and field, and the Olympics are coming up next year. I'm very happy doing what I'm doing. I love what I do."

And with good reason. It was only in 2009 that Watt made his international debut as a long jumper. He won the bronze medal at the World Championships in Berlin. Two years on, he is top of the world rankings, ahead of Ngonidzashe Makusha of Zimbabwe and Irving Saladino, the Olympic champion from Panama, who have both jumped 8.40m.

"It's a good time to be jumping personal bests and Australian records, with the Worlds not too far away now," Watt said. "I've got the top four jumps in the world this year [8.54m, 8.45m and 8.44m twice], which is cool. I'm trying to peak in Daegu obviously, but it's definitely a good sign."

It's a good sign not just for Daegu but for London and the 2012 Olympics. Since the Crystal Palace meeting, Watt and several of his fellow Australian athletes have been in Kent, staying at the Tonbridge base that Athletics Australia has hired as its holding camp for next summer's Games.

"We're spending a week here, seeing what it's like," Watt said. "They've relaid the track so that it's the same as in the Olympic Stadium. It's all pretty good. The plan is to stay in Tonbridge next year."

The Aussie HQ is actually Tonbridge School, Alma Mater of the late Colin Cowdrey, who played on a record six Ashes tours for England. E M Forster was also an Old Tonbridgean, so presumably Watt has a room with a view.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
The Queen and the letter sent to Charlie
football
Arts and Entertainment
Eurovision Song Contest 2015
EurovisionGoogle marks the 2015 show
News
Two lesbians hold hands at a gay pride parade.
peopleIrish journalist shares moving story on day of referendum
Arts and Entertainment
<p>
<b>Kathryn Williams</b>
</p>
<p>
When I was supporting Ray La Montagne I was six months pregnant. He had been touring for a year and he was exhausted and full of the cold. I was feeling motherly, so I would leave presents for him and his band: Tunnock's Tea Cakes, cold remedies and proper tea. Ray seemed painfully shy. He hardly spoke, hardly looked at you in the face. I felt like a dick speaking to him, but said "hi" every day. </p>
<p>
He was being courted by the same record company who had signed me and subsequently let me go, and I wanted him to know that there were people around who didn't want anything from him. At the Shepherds Bush Empire in London, on the last night of the tour, Ray stopped in his set to thank me for doing the support. He said I was a really good songwriter and people should buy my stuff. I was taken aback and felt emotionally overwhelmed. Later that year, just before I had my boy Louis, I was l asleep in bed with Radio 4 on when Louis moved around in my belly and woke me up. Ray was doing a session on the World Service. </p>
<p>
I really believe that Louis recognised the music from the tour, and when I gave birth to him at home I played Ray's record as something that he would recognise to come into the world with. </p>
booksKathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
News
Liz Kendall played a key role in the introduction of the smoking ban
newsLiz Kendall: profile
Life and Style
techPatent specifies 'anthropomorphic device' to control media devices
Voices
The PM proposed 'commonsense restrictions' on migrant benefits
voicesAndrew Grice: Prime Minister can talk 'one nation Conservatism' but putting it into action will be tougher
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?