Breyton Poole is looking to beat his personal best of 2.24m at the Athletix Grand Prix in Paarl on Thursday. Picture: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

CAPE TOWN – World youth champion Breyton Poole is looking for a big jump in front of his home fans at the Liquid Telecom Athletix Grand Prix Series Meeting in Paarl on Thursday.

“It is my home track, my whole family is coming, so I really expect to do well,” said 17-year-old Poole.

“As the Coetzenburg track is currently under reconstruction, Dal Josaphat has become my home and I train there at least twice a week. I know the track and I enjoy jumping on it.”

Poole opened his 2018 campaign at the inaugural Liquid Telecom Athletix Grand Prix Series Meeting in Ruimsig with a height of 2.15m. South Africans have got used to seeing him jump over 2.20m and were a bit disappointed, but the youngster was quite happy.

“It was only my first competition of 2018 so I was not disappointed. I was expecting to go 2.15m and anything above that would have been a bonus. It is a long season and I need to get into shape progressively. So that was the perfect start for me.”

Poole shot to fame when he won the 2017 World Under-18 High Jump title in Nairobi in what he calls ‘the most incredible experience of his life’.

“There were 50to 60000 people in the stands, singing, dancing and blowing the vuvuzela. Every performance was cheered on. It was out of this world. It didn’t matter from which country you were, you were loudly supported and that helped me to win the gold.”

Poole jumped a new personal best of 2.24m to win gold. In November last year at a league meeting in the Western Cape he improved that to 2.25m.
Standing at only 1.73m, Poole is often asked if his diminutive height for a high jumper is a disadvantage. 

“Yes I get asked that often,” chuckles Poole. “But if you look at Stefan Holm of Sweden, he is only 1.81m tall and he won four indoor titles, was a silver medalist at the 2003 World Championships and won the Olympic title in 2004. So if he can do it, there is no reason why I cannot.”

Poole believes he is a 2.30m plus jumper and has his eyes set on that target in 2018. “I have incredible bounce in my legs. This, together with my leg speed, helps me tremendously. This year I want to hit 2.30m.”

On his chances in Paarl, Poole is confident. “I am looking forward to it. I have heard a lot of people want to come out and support me, so I need to put on a great show. Chris (Moleya) will also be competing. We have a great rivalry, so the spectators should be treated to something special. Who knows, maybe I will go over my PB (2.25m) on Thursday.”

Meanwhile, the clash between Akani Simbine and Henricho Bruintjies in the men’s 100m will definitely be one of the major drawcards of the night.

For Simbine, it’s a final test before departing to the Gold Coast, Australia for the Commonwealth Games, while for Bruintjies it is a homecoming and an opportunity to race in front of his home crowd where he will gun for the scalp of his friend, Simbine.

The much-expected duel between the two did not materialise at the national championships, with Simbine withdrawing after the first round as a precaution. Simbine had complained of a tight hamstring and pulled out after consulting with his coach. Bruintjies went on to win the bronze medal.

Simbine said he was healthy, ready and eager to race in Paarl.

“I felt a tightness in my hamstring and we opted to withdraw from the championships. This was one of the hardest decisions that I have made, as the national title means a lot to me and I enjoy running in front of my home crowd. 

It is important to me to be able to do that as they always support me, so I felt it was my responsibility to reciprocate by racing at Tuks. But I had to make the hard decision.”

Athletics SA