Australian pole vaulter Steven Hooker starred in one of the most dramatic gold medal performances at the 2009 World Championships. Entering competition with a pulled leg muscle, Hooker jumped just once in the qualification round, clearing 5.65 meters (18 feet, 6½ inches), but was in pain after landing and had to be helped off the track. Two days later he managed two jumps, missing at 5.85/19-2¼ before clearing 5.90/19-4¼ to earn the gold medal.
Living on the edge:
Hooker became the first Australian pole vaulter to earn an Olympic medal in 2008 when he won in Beijing. Hooker was on the verge of elimination several times, beginning in qualifications, when he entered at 5.65 and missed twice before clearing on his last attempt, to qualify for the final. He cleared 5.60/18-4½ at the final then passed to 5.80/19-¼ in order to conserve energy. He then needed three jumps each to clear at 5.80, 5.85 and 5.90, with the final clearance earning him the gold. He then had the bar set to an Olympic record 5.96/19-6½ which he cleared, of course, on his third try.
Hooker’s mother Erica (then Erica Nixon) competed in the long jump in the 1972 Olympics, narrowly missing a spot in the final. She later earned a silver medal in the 1978 Commonwealth Games. Hooker’s father ran the 800 and the 4 x 400 relay in the 1974 Commonwealth Games. The pair won 13 Australian championships between them. But they didn’t permit Steven to compete in track and field until he was in high school. By age 17 Hooker was pole vaulting and playing Australian Rules Football. He chose to pursue vaulting in hopes of reaching the Olympics.
Hooker competed in the 2004 Olympics but didn’t qualify for the final. He became the 13th member of the “6-meter club” in January, 2008, clearing 6-0/19-8¼ during a meet in Perth. Hooker earned a bronze medal in the 2008 World Indoor championships and was the Commonweath Games champion in 2006.
- Height: 6-2
- Weight: 181
- Birth date: July 16, 1982
- Hometown: Melbourne, Australia
- Personal best: 6.00 meters (19-8¼) outdoors; 6.06/19-10½ indoors