Friday, August 31, 2007

A short conversation with: BRAD WALKER


OSAKA, Japan—Brad Walker (left, /photo by Paul Merca), a 2005 University of Washington graduate and school record holder in this event sat down for a brief chat Friday afternoon, after he easily qualified for the finals of the world championships Thursday night, clearing 18-8 1/4.

Walker, who is one of the favorites to win the world title, and who has the highest vault in the world this year at 19-6 1/4, successfully cleared 18-2 1/2 on his first attempt Thursday night, then needed two attempts to make 18-8 1/4. The former Washington Husky was one of seven men to successfully clear 18-8 1/4.

Unlike two years ago in Helsinki, where he came in a fresh-faced rookie on the professional track & field circuit, he enters the world championships as one of the favorites to win Saturday night’s event, which gets underway at Nagai Stadium at 7:30 pm, local time (3:30 am in Seattle).

Walker enters the competition as the reigning world indoor champion, and the silver medalist in this meet, as he was upset by Rens Blom of the Netherlands in a wet competition in Helsinki in 2005.

Walker last competed in Monte Carlo on July 25th, where he placed fourth in the Herculis Super Grand Prix meet, jumping 18-11 (5.77m).

During our conversation, he revealed that since the Monte Carlo meet, he had not touched a pole until Thursday night’s qualifying, as he’s had a lingering back problem, dating back to late 2006. He’s had to modify his training schedule for this season in order to work around the back problem. Walker said that since he’s been in Japan, he’s been able to get help and treatment from the USA Track & Field medical staff, an area he admits he hasn’t been as consistent with at home.

He admits that having his support team with him, including University of Washington vault coach Pat Licari, girlfriend and former UW vaulter Carly Dockendorf, parents Diana & Thomas, and sister Tanya, has made the world championships experience a little less stressful and enjoyable.

His most formidable opponents are last year’s world #`1 Steven Hooker of Australia, who’s jumped 19-4 3/4 (5.91m) and the German trio of Danny Ecker, Tim Lobinger, and rising star Bjorn Otto, the event’s rising star, according to Track & Field News, in its Osaka preview.

PM: You cruised through the prelims Thursday night. Talk about the prelims.

BW: Got through the competition okay. I only took three warmup jumps and three competition jumps. I tried to keep the jumps to a minimum.

PM: What are your impressions of the Osaka runway?

BW: The runway is really good. It’s a good solid runway. The girls jumped really high, so you can tell it’s good. A lot of the vaulters spoke to each other, and we thought that it wasn’t exceptionally fast, but that being said, it’s a good place to jump really high.

PM: Have things changed for you over the last two years, now that you are one of the big guns in this event, and how?

BW: I like to think of the change as a part of the natural progression of being an athlete. You’re going to come out of college thinking to yourself that you’re going to be one of those emerging guys that comes out and takes control of the event and bring it forward. I feel that’s where I am, and I’m confident going into the final that I know what I’m capable of jumping and know what it takes to get a medal, and I’m ready to go do it.

PM: Good luck in the finals Saturday night.

BW: Thanks!

For more information on the IAAF World Track & Field Championships, please visit http://www.osaka2007.iaaf.org.

For more information on Washington state-affiliated athletes competing at the world championships in Osaka, please visit http://paulmerca.blogspot.com.

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