Robbie Grabarz wins his place while Dan Keatings and Sam Oldham sweat
ROBBIE Grabarz, an athlete who grew up and went to school in St Neots, won his place in Team GB over the weekend after claiming the gold medal in the high jump at the Aviva Trials in Birmingham.
Meawhile, Huntingdon Gym coach Paul Hall says Dan Keatings and Sam Oldham have given British Gymnastics’ Olympic team selectors a ‘real headache’ after a great weekend for the Huntingdonshire gymnasts at the British Championships in Liverpool.
Grabarz, 24, was born in Enfield in London, but attended Crosshall Infant and Junior schools, and Longsands Academy, before moving away to pursue a career as a professional high jumper.
He has been on the fringes of the British athletics team for several years now – but gained a reputation for his ‘party lifestyle’ – and was labelled an underperformer.
That was, until a change of attitude last year. Grabarz recently said: “I like to party, probably more than most. It’s about being sensible, doing it right – at the right time … I’m really happy. I decided that I love what I do.
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“Once you accept that, you realise what I do is pretty cool. I love my job.”
At the weekend Grabarz won the high jump competition at the Olympic trials in Birmingham, the city where he is now trained by Fuzz Ahmed.
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It is his new coach who is credited with turning around the high jumper’s fortunes. Just seven months ago, Grabarz has his National Lottery funding withdrawn because of poor performances, now he is being tipped as one of Team GB’s leading London 2012 Olympic medal hopefuls.
“It feels pretty special to be honest,” Grabarz said.
“I don’t think it’s going to sink in for a couple of days yet but it feels really good.”In Liverpool, Louis Smith once again proved he is a shoe-in for selection to the Bristish men’s gymnastics team for London 2012 – but his two club-mates Keatings and Oldham were also both outstanding at the Echo Arena, and are now very much back in the reckoning after missing out on selection for the gold medal winning European Championships team last month.
“For all his injuries and problems, Dan did well in Liverpool,” said Hall, the trio’s Huntingdon Gym coach, “and Sam came out of nowhere!”
While Smith, 24, was expected to do well again, both Keatings and Oldham have been outsiders in the run up to Olympic selection – but 22-year-old Keatings won a silver medal on the pommel horse in Belgium three weeks ago to remind the selectors of his return to fitness – and his performance on the parallel bars in Liverpool have boosted his chances of a place in the team further.
Oldham, a former Youth Olympics sliver medallist, who has also been hampered by injuries, took a different route, competing in tournaments in Slovenia and Hungary in preparation for last weekend.
The 19-year-old’s convincing win on the high bars has now put his name firmly back in the frame.
“That was incredible – better than I could ever have hoped for,” he said. “To go clean on all pieces and take a medal is brilliant.
“I knew I just had to go for it today, it’s the last chance to impress and I nailed it.
“It shows that hard work really pays off, all the time I’ve been training away trying to get back from injury I’ve had in the back of my mind that I’ve worked all my life for these Olympics and that’s a big motivation. It’s a massive relief to have gone out and performed today.”
Keatings was similarly upbeat, saying: “I’m just so happy. The past couple of months have been really tough for me battling through injury but I’ve tried to stay positive and this was always the focus.
“I knew today I had to smash it and prove to everyone that I’m still right up there with the best, my aim was to get over 90 points and I did that.
“There were times when I didn’t think it would happen so to be back and produce clean routines under pressure feels great. I just hope I’ve done enough to get on the team but with the talent in the squad I know it’s going to be a close call.”
“They have given the selectors a real headache,” said Hall. “There are eight boys are looking to get in to a team of five.
“We will find out on July 4 – until then we will sit back and hope.”