City of Sheffield and Dearne pole vaulter Luke Cutts competes in his first Olympic Games when he lines up in the qualifying pool on Saturday.
The qualifier – which starts at 12.20am on Sunday – is always a nerve wracking affair with a place in the final at stake. Once there everyone has a chance of a medal, such is the nature of the event when countbacks come into play.
The aim in championship field events is to get 12 competitors into the final. The automatic qualifying mark in the pools is set high to ensure less than 12 will achieve the mark. The field is made up by the next best until the limit is reached.
In London, the automatic qualifier in the vault was set at 5.65m but British athlete Steve Lewis made the final with 5.50m. In the final he cleared 5.70 min fifth place, within reach of the bronze medal.
Thurnscoe vaulter Cutts, 28, has plenty of experience having been to the World Championships, three European Championships and two Commonwealth Games, the most recent in Glasgow where he won silver.
With a best of 5.83m (indoors) he is top of the UK all time list. Outdoors he ranks third with 5.70m.
In the 2008 Olympics 5.70m would have earned a bronze medal, but not in London where the standard was higher. Frenchman Renaud Lavillenie won with an Olympic record of 5.97m and is favourite to repeat his success this time.
Such is the delicate balance in this most technical of events, however, Lavillenie failed to clear a height in this year’s European Championships.
While Cutts has not reached his heights of 2014, there is no doubt that if things go his way, he has a good chance of reaching the final.
His coach, Trevor Fox – who has overseen his training since primary school – spoke to him this week and reported that he was going well in training.
In six successive clearances at 5.50m there was plenty of daylight between him and the bar which augurs well for his performance in Rio.
Cutts comes from Thurnscoe and went to school at Dearne High School (now Dearne Advanced Learning Centre).
Fox was a technician at the school, retiring just a month ago, and was already coaching Cutts when he was in year six at primary school. In 2000 the school set up its own athletics club which competed in top league events. They covered events across the spectrum but pole vault was always the speciality for Fox who also coaches Adam Hague, Britain’s top junior.
The Dearne ALC club is now merged with City of Sheffield AC.
It is coming up to 56 years since Dorothy Hyman won two medals at the Rome Olympics.
Could it be an omen for Luke Cutts that she also trained at the old Dearne High School, both in the gym and in a long, straight corridor which served as an indoor sprint straight?