August 27, 2011 / 5:55 AM / 8 years ago

Pole vault champion Hooker crashes out in Daegu

DAEGU, South Korea (Reuters) - World and Olympic pole vault champion Steve Hooker can take little consolation from the fact he is back to full fitness after the Australian failed to qualify for the world championships final on Saturday.

Pole vaulter Steve Hooker of Australia practices during a training session for the IAAF World Championships in Daegu, August 26, 2011. REUTERS/Mark Blinch

After two injury-ravaged years, Hooker only started his season at the end of July and his lack of preparation showed as he failed to get into the air in three attempts at clearing 5.50 meters to bring a premature end to his title defense.

“My body was fine, mentally it wasn’t there,” he told reporters. “I had no confidence in what I was doing out there. It’s tough to try and get a good jump when you feel that way.”

Hooker had declared himself fit after knee injury but underprepared for just his third competition of the year, a contrast with his position at Berlin two years ago when he cleared 5.90m with a groin strain to win gold.

The 29-year-old, whose leap of 6.06m indoors in the 2009 season was the second highest in history behind retired world record holder Sergei Bubka, admitted he had rushed his preparations.

Before the competition, Hooker vowed to battle all the way to stay in the contest and, after such a deflating exit, the Australian felt he had let himself down.

“No excuse for what happened today, I would expect more of myself,” he said.

Hooker, who had also been experimenting with a new fiber glass pole, said he had decided to call time on his season and turn his attention to preparing for his Olympic title defense in London next year.

“If I can take anything out positive out of this it would be that I’m healthy for the first time since 2008,” he said.

“This means I can get an early start on preparations for next year.”

Hooker’s best height this season of 5.60 left him some 30 centimeters behind the likes of France’s Renaud Lavillenie and Pole Pawel Wojciechowski, who will be expected to battle it out for gold Monday.

Additional reporting by Gene Cherry; Editing by John O'Brien

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