Robbie Grabarz silver eases Chris Baker’s frustration on World Indoor Championships stage
11:00 21 March 2016
Dereham’s Chris Baker revelled in Great Britain team-mate Robbie Grabarz’ joy while he endured a World Indoor Championships learning curve.
The 25-year-old high jumper produced a slightly below-par display – given his form so far in 2016 which had lifted him up to second in the world rankings – as he made his debut on the global stage in Portland, America, in the early hours of Sunday (UK time).
He failed to get anywhere near his personal best of 2.36m, set earlier this year, and was disappointed with his best clearance of 2.29m for eighth in the 12-man competition.
The Sale Harriers man did however take great pleasure in sharing the stage with the world’s best and watching Grabarz collect a stunning silver medal after 18-months of injury torment.
Baker said: “It’s my first world champs so I’m fairly happy to be in the mix really.
“I’m delighted for Robbie, it’s great to see him back on the top and I’m so happy for him. It’s frustrating because I was jumping the height to make the ‘33 (2.33m), but just not clearing the bar and that’s what makes it feel a bit harder. It’s frustrating, but that’s high jump.
“Me and Robbie were having a great time out there, it was a lot of fun and I’m delighted for him.”
The former Dereham Northgate High School pupil had been in inspired form ahead of the prestigious event setting a PB while finishing second at the Hustopece Indoor Championships in Czech Republic on February 13. That eight-centimetre improvement left him just 2cm short of Steve Smith’s British indoor record but a dream debut in the United States wasn’t forthcoming for the Rio 2016 hopeful.
It was a different story for St Neots’ Grabarz, the forgotten man of London 2012, as he clinched second.
The 28-year-old, who questioned his future in the sport after a knee operation in May 2014 left him jumping, in his words, like “a 16-year-old girl”, produced a first-time clearance at 2.33m to make a welcome return to the podium.
Grabarz, who won Olympic bronze, European gold and the Diamond Race crown during a memorable season four years ago, could not have timed his return to form better, with the 2016 Games coming up in August.
It was Britain’s third medal at the Oregon Convention Center, following bronze for both Lorraine Ugen in the long jump and Tiffany Porter in the 60m hurdles on Friday, and gave the team some much-needed reason for cheer after a succession of earlier disappointments.
With Qatari favourite Mutaz Essa Barshim clearly not fully fit, Grabarz was edged out of gold by Italian Gianmarco Tamberi, who needed third-time clearances at 2.29m and 2.33m before sailing over 2.36m at the first time of asking to triumph.
Many events in Portland were missing star names, but the men’s high jump featured all the leading jumpers in the world this year. Erik Kynard, who took silver ahead of Grabarz at London 2012, this time finished with bronze, losing out to the Briton on countback.
Grabarz said: “I’m ecstatic, I’ve lost my voice, I just can’t quite believe it to be honest. If someone said I’d get that result two years ago I wouldn’t have believed it, I would have bitten their hand off.”
Grabarz had tendons scraped, bone shaved and cartilage removed in a major operation to cure a knee ruined from the strain of high jumping.
He admitted ahead of the championships that being unable to clear 1.80m when he returned to training was “the most depressing day of his life”.
His first competition back was in April last year and resulted in a clearance of 2.16m, lower than he had jumped as a 17-year-old a decade earlier.
And in his absence the event had moved on, with Barshim threatening Javier Sotomayor’s 23-year-old world record of 2.45m.
“They (the days of competing at the top) looked very far away and that just made me train harder,” Grabarz added.