Date: 23 Aug 2009

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Steve Hooker wins Berlin gold, Mitchell Watt snatches bronze

Inspirational pole vaulter Steve Hooker and remarkable young long jumper Mitchell Watt have ensured Australia will leave Berlin with their best overall result at a world athletics championships.

Hooker and Watt both said they drew inspiration from Dani Samuels’ shock gold medal in the discus on the previous night.

Australia’s tally of two golds and one bronze – with one day to go – topped the two golds from the 2007 championships in Osaka.

The Australian team did win four medals at the 1997 championships in Athens, but only one of them was gold.

Hooker defied the pain of an adductor injury to win gold with a best clearance of 5.90m.

The Australian team captain knew he was only fit enough to complete a couple of jumps – at best.

But that proved to be enough, with his narrow miss at 5.85m followed by a stunning clearance at 5.90m.

French duo Romain Mesnil (5.85m) and Renaud Lavillenie (5.80m) claimed the minor medals.

“This is a totally unreal experience. I honestly can’t believe I pulled it off,” said Hooker, who also won the Beijing Olympics title in dramatic circumstances last year.

“It was a very risky strategy and it worked.

“It’s been a process with the medical staff trying to figure out exactly what was wrong with me.

“We worked out there was something wrong with my hip and we were able to inject that today.

“I’m very happy I did it and I took the risk again today.”

Hooker had a local anaesthetic midway through the competition, before he took his first jump.

He became Australia’s second pole vault world champion alongside Dmitri Markov, who won the gold medal in Edmonton in 2001.

Both were coached by Alex Parnov.

Australia’s other medallist on day eight was Watt, who only returned to the sport seriously 12 months ago after a long lay-off.

He won bronze in the long jump with 8.37m behind American Dwight Phillips (8.54m) and Khotso Mokoena of South Africa (8.47m).

Australia’s other finalist, Fabrice Lapierre, was fourth with 8.21m.

Watt thanked his coach Gary Bourne for making him believe in his potential.

“I stopped doing athletics when I was 14 and started playing rugby and AFL, just because all my mates were and I wasn’t too concerned about athletics and didn’t think it could be much of a career,” he said.

“The rest of high school, start of uni, I just enjoyed myself and didn’t really give sport a second thought.

“Then the idea to come back to athletics came into my head.

“I never thought about going to the Olympics or being a world champion, but the longer I trained with (Bourne) and he told me I had potential I started taking it more seriously.”

It was Australia’s first medal in the men’s long jump at the highest level since Jai Taurima’s silver at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

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