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Page last updated at 08:14 GMT, Monday, 4 August 2008 09:14 UK

Brits to watch: Phillips Idowu

Phillips Idowu

By Sarah Holt

Triple jumper Phillips Idowu has transformed himself from perennial nearly-man to the golden boy of British athletics just in time for Beijing.

The 29-year-old World Indoor champion is favourite for the Olympic title after a leap of 17.58m in July saw him tighten his grip on the world number one spot.

If he is to come out on top in the triple jump final in Beijing on 21 August then Idowu must calm his major championship nerves - and the signs are that he will.

"I'm in a different situation to anything I've been in before," he admitted. "But I'm cool with that, I don't mind being called favourite."

FACTS & STATS

Born: 30 December 1978, London
Trains: Belgrave Harriers in Battersea and Wimbledon
Career highlights: Commonwealth gold (2006), European Indoor gold (2007) World Indoor gold (2008)
Personal best: 17.68m

PATH TO THE PODIUM

2008 form: At the risk of jinxing Idowu, it is fair to say that 2008 simply could not have gone any better for the Londoner. After capturing the British indoor title he jetted to Valencia for the World Indoors where he beat a high-quality field to claim gold with an indoor personal best and British record of 17.75m.

Olympic triple jump champion Christian Olsson
An untimely thigh injury means super Swede Olsson will not defend his Olympic title
Rivals: The withdrawal of defending champion Christian Olsson because of a thigh injury saw the Swede immediately name Idowu as favourite to win gold in Beijing. But there are still plenty of dangermen left in the field including British team-mate Nathan Douglas, who is returning to his best form after injury.

With a season's best of 17.18m Douglas might just give his pal a run for his money, as could Portugal's world champion Nelson Evora and Grenada's Randy Lewis.

How he could win: Idowu captured his 2006 Commonwealth gold, his 2007 European Indoor title and this season's British indoor and outdoor crowns on his very first jump.

So if he doesn't nail it first time, it could be time to start biting your nails.

What he says: "I feel like Superman. I don't think anyone can stop me. I'm bullet-proof. In Olympic year people come out of the woodwork but I'm not expecting someone to come out. I'm doing all I can to end the year as Olympic champion."

What you say: "He's a British athlete in his prime, confident and leading the world rankings. Bring back that gold Phillips and prove your critics wrong."

Jumping masterclass with Phillips Idowu

Sporting high: Idowu's Commonwealth gold was a watershed moment, bringing him his first global gold medal to end his reputation as a choker. He said after the win in Melbourne; "I couldn't stop crying until late that night."

Sporting low: After arriving at the Athens Olympics in good form, Idowu registered three no-jumps in the final.

He tried to protest against the red flag waved at his first jump but the sand has already been raked over, meaning it could not even be measured.

In action: Qualifying 18 August at 0200-0445 BST, final 21 August around 1200 BST
There is plenty of time to get nervous if you are a triple-jumper as there are two days off between qualifying and the final. In the final, each jumper has three attempts then the top eight get three more as they vie for the medals.

AWAY FROM TRIPLE JUMP

Life before sport: Idowu's muscular stature helped him become a top basketball and American football player in his youth. It was only when his PE teacher at his school in Bethnal Green suggested he try the triple jump that he realised he was just a hop, skip and a jump away from the sport most suited to his agile and powerful build.

Lennox Lewis
Idowu says heavyweight boxer Lennox Lewis has been a role model
Hero worship: During his basketball days, Idowu looked up to NBA stars Michael Jordan and Dennis Rodman. He's also a big fan of Britain's former heavyweight champion boxer Lennox Lewis but reckons he is "scary" after bumping into him in a barber's.

Most likely to: Be spotted coming out of a barber's! He has dyed his hair red white and blue since making his international senior debut for Great Britain at the 2000 Olympics.

Idowu is also pretty patriotic when it comes to his tongue piercings too as he owns St George's cross and Union Jack studs. He's keeping his hair red for Beijing but the question is will he have an Olympic ring tongue stud?

Least likely to: Be found naked rapt in a state of inner bliss in a flotation tank. Hang on a minute, these days chatterbox Idowu can be found doing exactly that. The Londoner has been using the float therapy ahead of the Games to help his muscles relax and prevent injuries.

Did you know? Idowu is a musical man and loves all sorts of tunes. When he was at primary school he used to play in a steel drums band. He is now taking Spanish lessons - maybe to impress his Spanish-named girlfriend Carlita.


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see also
Idowu not fazed by favourite tag
23 Jul 08 |  Athletics
Idowu rival Olsson out of Games
22 Jul 08 |  Athletics
Idowu takes title with world best
13 Jul 08 |  Athletics
Olympic gold or nothing for Idowu
06 Apr 08 |  Athletics
Idowu leaps to triple jump gold
09 Mar 08 |  Athletics


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