Tomlinson taking his leap of faith

Britain's Chris Tomlinson competes in the men's long jump event during the European Team Championships at the Stockholm Olympic Stadium, Stockholm, Sweden, Saturday, June 18, 2011. Tomlinson finished third. (AP Photo).
Britain's Chris Tomlinson competes in the men's long jump event during the European Team Championships at the Stockholm Olympic Stadium, Stockholm, Sweden, Saturday, June 18, 2011. Tomlinson finished third. (AP Photo).
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Chris Tomlinson’s career highlights are not to be sniffed at.

A world indoor silver medal in 2008, a European Championship bronze in 2010 and a British record last year.

Yet all his accomplishments were put into perspective recently, when at the launch event for July’s Aviva London Grand Prix at Crystal Palace – the last athletics event before London 2012 – Tomlinson spent time with four British medallists from the Helsinki Olympics of 1952.

“It’s fascinating to think they won medals 60 years ago. And it just goes to show that you can win your world and European championship medals but in a few years they’re forgotten,” said the 30-year-old Middlesbrough long jumper.

“Olympic medallists are remembered for 60 years. That’s what’s at stake this summer.

“In sport there’s a certain amount of repsect that goes with an Olympic medal. It’s revered as the pinnacle.

“The Olympics means something far deeper than financial gain. It’s something deep down in your heart.”

In an athletics career often punctuated by injury, Tomlinson has yet to affect his life with success in an Olympic competition.

He competed in both Athens and Beijing but on both occasions he was not fully fit and did not affect the outcome.

The injuries continued late last year, even after a record-breaking summer, when a leg injury robbed him of a chance at success at the World Championships.

For the 6ft 6in long jumper who first broke the British record a decade ago, his cv is not adorned with as many accolades as he would have wanted.

So with London 2012 less than four months away, it would be understandable for Tomlinson to wrap himself in cotton wool.

But not so.

“If I can keep myself away from injury and stay technically on form then I am confident in my ability,” said Tomlinson, who is married to West End actress Lucia Rovardi.

“I have picked up injuries at various stages of my career, at pretty bad times to be honest.

“It’s something I’ve got to work with, the way the cards have been dealt.

“Ninety-nine per cent of athletes suffer injuries – it’s about being able to deal with it.

“It’s about managing your body, when to push yourself, and what training you can and cannot do.

“I’m good now at managing my training. I know when to push it and I know when I need to chill out and take a break.

“I like to think I’m experienced enough. I know what it takes to get ready for the big events.

“You’ll probably find a difference in the older athletes and the younger guys. We know when to push it and when to sit back, you’ll probably get some young athletes at the first week of winter training in October, training ‘eyeballs out’.

“In my experience I know what really counts is the final few months of training, leading into the season and the events. There’s no point pushing too hard too soon.”

As well as a sensible training programme, Tomlinson will also compete frequently this summer, with Diamond League meetings starting in Doha, the Aviva British Trials in Birmingham and the Aviva Grand Prix in Crystal Palace.

It was there last year that he broke the national record again with a leap of 8m30, a mark he increased even further when he won a medal in a Diamond League meeting in Paris with a leap of 8m35.

But after his best year in terms of results, he has no desire to rest on his laurels.

“On paper everything is going well,” he said.

“I’ve worked on my weaknesses of last season, worked out whether I can make the difference up that way.

“It’s all been about how can I find that extra distance? Hopefully I’ll get to show that off this year.”

A ding-dong battle with fellow Briton Greg Rutherford has helped Tomlinson find those few extra centimetres.

The duo are favourites to land the two Olympic spots at June’s trials, provided they leap 8m20 – a distance well within Tomlinson’s grasp. Beyond that, he is seasoned enough to know nothing can be taken for granted, especially in an Olympic summer.

“I haven’t really set too many targets,” he said. “The main targets for me are technical. If I can be technicaly correct then that’s my aim.

“I’ve always been pretty strong, pretty stringy.

“At this stage in proceedings most athletes are going to say they’re confident.

“I’ve jumped the standard on several occasions – the job now is to concentrate on myself and forget about anything else.”

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