Watt a talent

One giant leap from rugby to athletics and now Mitch Watt is London-bound

Mike Hurst
From:The Daily Telegraph
June 14, 20113:14PM

IT’S one those quirks of fate, one of those mysteries of sport, that saw Mitch Watt drift away from a likely future playing with the Wallabies to take up athletics in which he is now a London Olympic medal contender.

Watt, 23, still doesn’t quite understand how it all happened.

Rugby was his first love and he was in the Queensland Schools team alongside current Wallaby stars Quade Cooper, David Pocock and former classmate Will Genia.

At 95kg he was a formidable fullback or centre who had sufficient speed and power to have won the 14-years national All-Schools championship some years earlier in both 100m and long jump in 2002 before departing the track for the football field.

``I didn’t see track and field as a career, so when I left athletics in 2002 it was literally five years during which I didn’t touch the track until I started training with [long jump coach] Gary Bourne in late 2007,’’ Watt said.

Of course now Watt is regarded as a phenomenon of athletics, having won the bronze medal for long jump at his first international - the world championships, no less - in Berlin in 2009. And although the global season is young in 2011, Watt owns five of the world’s top 10 jumps this year - including the top two marks (both 8.44 metres). Step it out: that’s eight and three-quarter strides in distance.

Astonishing. To reach that sort of distance, an athlete must be moving at a 100m speed of around 10sec or under - if only for the last few steps approaching the take-off board - and then apply a force of up to 10 times his bodyweight into the board.

It is a strange and wonderful calling. Nowhere near as glamorous as the 100m or rugby for that matter, possibly because it is less well understood.

``I ask myself that question a lot and I’m still not sure,’’ Watt replied to the question of why he abandoned rugby.

``I was thoroughly enjoying playing rugby. The team environment was much more fun and the Queensland schools team I made produced four or five Wallabies. It’s the same thing as with athletics I guess. I didn’t see myself playing rugby professionally. I thought of them as heroes and not something I could become.

``And then I got into law [economics-law] at the University of Queensland and it was a lot of work.’’

Now in his final year of a double degree, Watt is a modern Renaissance Man: good at everything. And that would certainly make him a hero to many.

What a consistent athlete…He appears capable of big things. The LJ will be one of those super competitive events come the Olympic next year! Will be 6 rounds of edge of the seat stuff.

I see him training once or twice a week. The group he trains with under Gary Bourne is probably the best horizontal jumps group in the world at the moment. 8.44m twice this year for Watt, 8.33m last year for Chris Noffke, 7.98m and 16.91m for Henry Frayne this year and 7.58m and 16.97m for Kane Brigg this year. Kane is also a 2.24m high jumper. I saw them do 120m sprints a few weeks ago, and Watt’s fastest one was 11.5s hand-timed! Frayne and Noffke were almost a whole second slower (12.4s). I asked him if he is planning to make himself available for the Australian relay team. He said he wouldn’t mind running the relay, but can’t commit to all the training and team-building sessions the relay team has to go through.

According to his twitter he run 10.31 and came second, but wanted to run 10.2.

I’d say he has the raw speed for a 10.0 - 10.1, but since he doesn’t train starts and acceleration and only races once or twice a year, he hasn’t reached his potential in the sprints yet. I’d love to see a relay split for an anchor leg for him. He told me he’ll run a 4x100m relay soon.