With the New Year now in full swing the clock is fast counting down to next month’s Aviva Indoor UK Trials and Championships here in Sheffield, when Britain’s best athletes will battle it out for a ticket to the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Istanbul in March.
While we’ve all enjoyed the chance to put our feet up over the Christmas break and very happily indulged in a few too many mince pies, Sheffield’s top track and field athletes have been hard at it in training in a race against time to get fit for the coming indoor season and beyond that the London Olympic Games.
With just a few months until the Games get under way, it’s time for us armchair experts to really hit the books and study up on all the names to know before the big event.
One local lad working hard to make his mark is Dearne AC/City of Sheffield pole vaulter Luke Cutts.
Luke, who will celebrate his 24th birthday the day after the Trials conclude on February 13, competes in one of the most compelling – and one of the craziest – events in athletics.
With an indoor personal best of 5.62m, well over the height of a double-decker bus, Luke spends his days honing the technique required to launch himself into the air and over a bar set at dizzying heights. It’s one of the greatest spectacles in athletics and certainly not an event for the faint-hearted; the pole vault features some of the most acrobatic and courageous sportspeople in the world.
Luke, whose indoor season gets under way in earnest this week, will be flying the flag for Sheffield at the Trials next month and be hoping the support of his home crowd gives him just the lift he needs to get his year off to the right start.
A talented junior athlete, Luke was a finalist at the 2006 IAAF World Junior Championships in Beijing and in 2009 placed 13th in the qualifying round of competition at the IAAF World Championships in Berlin on his senior international debut.
But in 2010 Luke, who is 24 next month, suffered a disappointing Commonwealth Games campaign, failing to record a height in his three attempts at the New Delhi stadium. With the Olympics now just around the corner, Luke will no doubt be keen to make amends for his New Delhi result by putting in a strong performance at this summer’s London Games.
Competition for a berth on the GB team will be fierce, with fellow Brits Steve Lewis, Max Eaves, Nick Cruchley and Paul Walker all set to battle it out for one of just three places on the Olympic team.
But Luke is a hard-working athlete and will thrive on the challenge ahead of him.
In 2009 Luke set his current personal best indoors in Sheffield and went on to represent his country at the World Championships in Berlin. Next month Luke will again have the chance to compete indoors in Sheffield and to raise the bar on his performance yet again. A new personal best would be just the omen Luke needs to set his Olympic year off on a high, and with a home crowd behind him the feat is within reach.
Do yourself a favour this year and try to catch some pole vault action; you won’t forget the sight of Luke Cutts and Co soaring into the sky.