Birmingham & Black Country

Robbie Grabarz's coach: 'That was 2012, let's move on'

Robbie Grabarz
Image caption Among other visits, Grabarz went back to see his former school dinner lady colleagues after the Olympics

Away from the spotlight of Olympic glory, the winter reality for bronze medallist Robbie Grabarz is working hard at Birmingham's £3.3m High Performance Centre.

The 25-year-old high jumper bounced back from being a lottery funding reject, and getting a "good telling off" from his coach in 2011, to win the medal - and has been reaping the rewards.

Since the Olympics, Grabarz said he had been doing up to two public appearances a week until November. Now however, he has stopped to keep his "eyes on the target".

"[I've done] dinners and things like that, spending the evening with people which is actually quite fun," he said.

"Athletes' careers are short, so you take these opportunities, but you don't want to take it to the detriment of your career.

"At the end of the day you make more money jumping hard than you do anything else, so that's my focus."

'Princes or terrorists'

Grabarz also trains for part of the week in Loughborough, where he has not forgotten his roots - he went back to visit school dinner ladies following the Olympics, after previously doing the job himself for a year to earn extra money.

Image caption Ahmed said he used skills he picked up while acting in his career as a coach

The coach who had told him "to stop wasting his time and my time" was Fuzz Ahmed, a Rada-trained high jumper, who has appeared in EastEnders, Coronation Street, Spooks and Holby City, always playing "princes or terrorists".

The UK Athletics high jump coach said: "Should [Robbie] have done better at the Olympics? Yeah, he should have. It's now 2013, I can say the words - yeah, he should have done better.

"He under-performed, primarily, because there was so much expectation on him. He got an Olympic medal, let's not take that away, but now [that's] 2012 and let's move on.

"Five minutes after the competition I was bored with hearing about 2012 and we need to move on and the country needs to move on."

This week Ahmed, 46, is starting a new phase of training with five high jumpers, including Grabarz.

After building up strength with plenty of weight training towards the end of 2012, he said it was now "more about grace" and technique.

Following the indoor season early this year, Grabarz said he thought he would soon be heading for a fortnight's warm weather camp in Italy to prepare ahead of the summer.

Ahmed said: "Jumping a personal best at your highest bar in the most stressful conditions, is scoring a hole-in-one. That's why athletics is so specific and that's why we train for nine months to compete for three."

His expertise in preparing athletes mentally has also benefitted non-high jumpers, including British 400m champion Martyn Rooney.

"A lot of my mental work that people often focus on is actually probably due to the fact that I'm quite good with words," he said.

"My training as an actor is all about words.

"I try to find out what people are motivated by and try to hone in on that.

"When someone's motivated by adulation, I make sure that I put them down."

'All the way'

Ahmed, who also appeared on the BBC Asian Network soap Silver Street, said: "I will go back to [acting] at some point, but I'm more interested in being a coach.

"We got a home Olympics and I saw this guy Robbie, I knew there was potential there to take this kid all the way.

Image caption Animal science student Isobel Pooley is hoping to represent Britain in the 2016 Rio Olympics

"We got an Olympic medal and he was 50th ranked in the world the year before, so for me I feel my civic duty is done."

Looking forward to the 2016 Games in Rio, one of the Birmingham group aiming to be there is Isobel Pooley - the number one British female high jumper this year, having jumped 1.82m.

In December, the University of Nottingham animal science student got on the "first rung" of UK Athletics funding and has got financial backing from a number of other sources.

"I was only 2cm away from the qualification height [for London 2012] and at only 19 that's quite an accolade," the 20-year-old said.

"I was still feeling watching the Games with the sense that in four years' time, yes I'll belong there.

"Also knowing Robbie, knowing other athletes who are competing, it means that they're no longer this different breed of people who are Olympians.

"They're friends... But they're just further along the journey than I am."

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