Backley backing for Grabarz
Athletics legend Steve Backley believes Robbie Grabarz possesses the "X Factor" which can help him complete a meteoric rise to Olympic glory.
The 24-year-old has come from nowhere to be considered one of Great Britain's genuine track and field medal hopes at London 2012 thanks to his sensational early-season form.
Grabarz lost his lottery funding last season after failing to even qualify for the world championships in Daegu but following an impressive indoor campaign during the winter he's now raised his outdoor personal best from 2.28 metres to a staggering 2.36m.
Only Russia's Ivan Ukhov has gone higher this year and if the Newham and Essex Beagle can maintain his consistency until London then a podium place will be on the cards.
Grabarz has been aided in his quest by money from Backley and Roger Black's company BackleyBlack since they were told about his talents and lack of funds.
And former javelin star Backley, who is the only British track and field competitor to win medals at three different Olympics, insists the only way is up for the Fayyaz Ahmed-trained athlete.
"I think we're his only sponsor at the moment, " said the four-time European champion.
"The exciting thing about Robbie is that he's on this ascendance in form - he's not holding on to it. Every time he jumps he thinks he can go higher and the next step is the British record.
"If he can do that in the Olympic final then he can win it. Jumping around 2.37m or 2.38m is more than likely going to be good enough for gold so I'm very excited about Robbie.
"He's got something special about him. He's got an X Factor. It's hard to pin point but there's something in champions which Robbie has in bucket loads.
"It would be the most fantastic story of the Games if he comes from nowhere to pull it off and win gold. It would be remarkable."
Backley finds it astounding that Grabarz has unlocked his previously hidden talents despite a shortage of essential footwear.
He said: "We've both known Fayyaz Ahmed very well for many years and he told us that we had to look at this guy who he said was incredible. He said if ever he wanted a talented athlete to look after it's Robbie.
"Fayyaz couldn't believe he wasn't on funding. I totally understand how funding works, it can't be given to everyone and he just fell outside of the catchment which was unfortunate.
"So we thought we'd give him a chance and help him out.
"But he's only got one pair of high jump shoes for goodness sake! That's how ridiculous it is. Especially when you look at footballers who can be multi-millionaires without being in the first team.
"And there's Robbie near the top of the world rankings and he only has one bloody pair of high jump shoes! What's going on?!
"We've put a little bonus in there to enjoy if he medals and let's see how it unfolds."
Apart from Grabarz, Backley is confident there are several other athletes on the fringes who can combine with the bigger names such as Jess Ennis and Mo Farah to hit Great Britain's target of eight medals in athletics.
He said: "We need things to go our way because eight medals is a decent haul for athletics, especially if you look at years gone by. My first Olympic memory was watching the Montreal Games in '76 where we won just one medal in athletics!
"I think the key is to get two or three more gold then hope we can then nick a few. There's a few athletes on the borderline of nicking medals like Lawrence Okoye in the discus, Goldie Sayers in the javelin, Robbie Grabarz in the high jump, Holly Bleasdale in the pole vault and Greg Rutherford in the long jump.
"There are athletes well capable of reaching finals and with the wind on their back could sneak into the medals and that would certainly boost our tally."
Backley was no stranger to great expectations ahead of his appearances at major championships and feels Ennis and Farah have both shown they can cope with the pressure.
"I think it's difficult to cope when someone has put a medal round your neck," said Backley at the launch of Cadbury House.
"I think it's a horrible situation to be in because you can't win. You either do what's expected or mess up. It's a horrible situation.
"But Jess and Mo are very well established athletes and both have won world titles. The experience Jess had last year of being beaten in Daegu will have certainly spurred her on and given her the much needed knowledge and understanding of what it takes to get the gold.
"She's very experienced now and in the last three years of competition since missing out on Beijing due to injury, she's gained a lot of competitive edge and knowledge.
"What happened to Mo in both the 10000m and 5000m finals in Daegu saw him learn bundles. They are the sort of experiences which could make all the difference when it comes to that sort of pressure.
"They're not beginners and I believe in them both. They are both champions in my eyes."
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