London 2012: That wasn’t me says Idowu

Injury hampers triple jumper’s final bid

Phillips Idowu, the ‘invisible man’ of Great Britain athletics, showed up for work at the Olympic Stadium this morning.

But the Hackney native could not do the job he wanted and failed to qualify for the men’s triple jump final.

Idowu managed a leap of 16.47m with his first jump, but got a red flag in the second round as he looked for the automatic qualification mark of 17.10m.

Only two men reached that distance and a third and final effort of 16.53 left Idowu 10cm short of a place among the top 12 for Thursday’s final.

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He said: “I was supposed to come here and qualify and I didn’t. That wasn’t me.

“It wasn’t a great competition. It’s my home Olympics and my fourth Olympics and it hasn’t gone to plan.

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“My preparation went well, I’ve been training every day and working hard every day. My strength level was great, my speed was great and I’ve been able to jump in training.

“I thought I’d come out and put on a decent show, but it wasn’t able to happen. Now I have to regroup and prepare for the future. You haven’t seen the best of me yet.”

Idowu had not jumped competitively for two months, since landing awkwardly in wet conditions at a meeting in Eugene, Oregon.

The 33-year-old claimed he had no injury problems ahead of last month’s London Grand Prix at Crystal Palace, only to pull out 25 minutes before his competition was due to start, citing a ‘sore hip’.

Some media reports claimed he had a trapped nerve behind his knee and the British Olympic Association asked to see Idowu’s medical records, much to his anger.

UK Athletics head coach Charles van Commenee – whom Idowu has not spoken to since a fall-out over his usage of Twitter more than 18 months ago – showed little sympathy when Idowu stayed at home rather than attend a pre-Games training camp in Portugal, saying: “The team has not been as strong as this for a long time. And what do we do? We talk about the invisible man.”

But Idowu, who grew up just a few miles from the Olympic Park, finally turned up at the athletes village at the weekend and was bidding to complete a full set of titles after gold at Commonwealth, European and World Championships.

A silver medallist at the Beijing Olympics four years ago, Idowu added: “I managed to get out and see my physio and get some treatment before the competition and went into today pain-free, which I was grateful about.

“My main goal was to be here pain-free and I thought, with the calibre of athlete I am and the big occasion, I would pull something out of the bag.

“I’ve struggled with nerve pain and haven’t been 100 per cent but I came here pain-free and should have been able to replicate what I’ve achieved in the past.

“In the past I could open up with 17.50, even off a shorter approach, even without competition, but it just didn’t happen.

“My physio did a great job getting me to the start line pain-free, but I knew I would be rusty. The lack of competition and lack of timing, I couldn’t put it all together.

“The conditions were a little difficult because of the wind and I knew that may have been a factor. I’ve been competing for 12 years and can’t remember a time when I’ve competed that badly.”

How Van Commenee views the failure of Idowu, a genuine medal contender when fit, to reach the final remains to be seen.

The athlete himself revealed he will probably need to go under the knife – at his own expense, he explained, as he does not receive any lottery funding – but wanted to thank the British fans for their support.

Idowu, who set his personal best of 17.81m only two years ago, added: “I’m guessing I will most likely need surgery at the end of this season. I’m going to call it a day for this season and wrap it up.

“It’s a problem with my right leg and I can’t say specifically what the surgery will be. I’ve been tagged all year as a medal favourite and now I don’t even get the chance.

“The crowd have been great and given so much support to all of the British athletes. I’m upset that I let them down.

“At the beginning of the Games I just wanted people to be positive about the Games. Before people were sceptical, I knew London would put on a good show.”

Idowu’s disappointment came hot on the heels of those suffered by 110m hurdler Andrew Pozzi, who pulled up early in his heat this morning, and javelin thrower Goldie Sayers, who broke down in tears after failing to record a distance due to an elbow injury.

Idowu added: “We had a great chance to show what our athletes can do. Jess (Ennis) did great, followed by Greg (Rutherford) and Mo (Farah) and hopefully the rest of the team will pick up medals.”

A keen basketball player during his youth, Idowu was introduced to triple jump by schoolteacher Humphrey Long during a PE lesson at Mile End Stadium.

Taught the hop, step, jump using the lanes of the athletics track Idowu showed a natural proficiency and, although not particularly interested in athletics, was persuaded to stick at the discipline.

“I’ve been lucky over the last four or five years that I’ve gone to every major championships and competed at my best, which is what you want to do, and I’ve always come away with at least a silver,” added Idowu.

“This year I am not at my best, but I hoped I would be able to go out there and compete.”

Speaking prior to the Games, Idowu had stressed how Olympic gold was the pinnacle of any athlete’s life. “No-one races around the playground saying ‘I’m going to win silver’,” he said.

But after seeing his hopes of a fairytale story on his own doorstep shattered, the enigmatic Idowu must now start out on the long road to Rio and hope he gets the chance to complete his full set of titles in four years time.

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