Olympics 2012: Phillips Idowu exclusive
Phillips Idowu, a silver medallist at Beijing and the World Championships, will be bidding for gold in the triple jump at the Olympic Stadium. The Londoner, who grew up in Hackney, a stone's throw away from the Olympic Park, has been struggling to get fit in time to compete after a difficult year. He spoke to Orange about his Games ambitions, his upbringing and what lies in store afterwards...
There's been question marks about your fitness. How are you feeling?
I'm ok. Things have been blown out of proportion. I've had a niggly nerve issue to deal with. It's not a big one, I've been training full on with it and I'll be ok. My shape is physically the best it's ever been. My power is there, my speed is there and I'm jumping well.
Despite having a 2012 that's not been ideal in the build-up, do you still think you can win gold?
The season's goal is still the same - to come away with the Olympic gold medal. That's what I've been looking for since the heartbreak of Beijing. Even if the build-up to the Games hasn't been what I wanted, I'll always come out and jump a season's best.
How hard was Beijing and bouncing back from that?
Really hard, man. It clearly wasn't God's will for me to win in Beijing. I always feel that, if it's meant to be, it's meant to be. It wasn't on that day and I think London will be different.
Is it fair to say on this season's form that Christian Taylor is the favourite?
He's been jumping well but there's no point worrying about just one guy in the field as there's a lot of guys out there that are good enough to win the competition. I just have to worry about myself and sort out what I need to do.
Has it been difficult in terms of the pressure and expectation of the Games? Have you embraced or tried to hide away from it?
I was lucky enough to carry the Olympic torch in the relay through my home town which was such an amazing honour. It was such a massive buzz and I didn't expect the crowds that were out on the streets, man. I got a bit emotional with it all and it kind of felt like the Olympics had started for me in that very moment. My daughter wasn't happy, though, to have another Olympic torch in the house as she'd made one herself.
What are you like before a competition - a nervous wreck or quite chilled out, and how do you relax?
I don't get nervous for competitions any more as I know that all the work has been done and I'm ready. I always have music with me and listen to anything that might relax me, like a bit of reggae. The music helps you get prepared but I'm usually pretty relaxed.
What would you be doing if you weren't a triple jumper?
I'd be playing in the NBA [he laughs]. I played a lot of basketball as a kid and that was more my thing than triple jump. In the summer I'd leave home at 10 in the morning and come back at 6. All day, I'd just be playing basketball with my friends. It was the perfect preparation for the triple jump competing in the future.
So how and when did you make the change?
My PE teacher suggested I try out track and field, he thought I was more suited to it. I thought I could have done something in basketball, ok, maybe the NBA was too high, I don't know. But I liked the triple jump as I was good at it and who doesn't like something they're good at?
You had quite a tough upbringing growing up in Hackney. How important was the athletics in helping you with that?
Well, the athletics was my thing and it took me away from everything. I didn't have to worry about anything, it was just a way to escape. Life wasn't always easy which is while I feel proud for what I've achieved in my life. Even if I hadn't won all the major medals I have, just getting into athletics was an achievement as no one really did that from where I came from. That for me coming from a time when some days I didn't have food on the table and couldn't get dinner, is the big achievement.
Do you think you were destined for sporting success?
I don't think so. I wasn't even the best athlete in my school. It just shows what you can achieve simply by working hard. I hope I've shown people in Hackney, London and across the UK what you can achieved if you work hard in life.
Have you had to make sacrifices to get to the top?
Oh yeah, definitely. There's been a lot sacrifice and there was a time when I didn't think I could make those sacrifices any more, that this wasn't really the thing for me. There have been so many times that I've not been able to see family and friends when I wanted to. I definitely thought about stopping it but I'm glad I carried on even with the sacrifices. It's what I love.
What makes you carry on even, say, after the Olympics? Is it the search for that perfect jump?
You're always striving for perfection but you also know you're never going to get it. The triple jump is such a technical sport that there's no way you can ever get it just right. I've not had a perfect jump before, I know that, but I've had some very good jumps. I think there are better jumps to come, hopefully in London.