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Athletics: Scott is lured by bright lights of Le Peche Tour; Pole vaulter springing into action against French rivals.

Byline: Bob Cypher

DISCO music, flashing lights and smoke machines are the order of the day for Wales' number one pole vaulter Scott Simpson as he continues his comeback from injury.

But Simpson isn't out enjoying the nightlife, but competing against some of Europe's best vaulters in Le Peche Tour, a French initiative which, although tried in Britain, has yet to emulate its success across the Channel.

Simpson, 28, is Britain's number two vaulter and represented Wales in the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne two years ago.

A former Uwic student, he took the brave decision to move from his beloved Cardiff to Loughborough, Leicestershire, where he linked up with Steve Ripon, coach to Britain's top vaulter Steve Lewis.

"I felt I had to put all my efforts into my vaulting," explained Simpson who had combined his training sessions with coaching a group of women vaulters including his long-time partner Louise Butterworth, herself a GB international.

"I had to be totally focused on my own vaulting and not have the other athletes' problems.

"You have to get your head right if you want to get to the top in any sport and athletics in general and pole vaulting in particular are no different."

Simpson says the move to train with Lewis has already reaped rewards with subtle but important changes in his technique identified and rectified and his physical condition improved..

Simpson was in Glasgow last weekend representing the Commonwealth team at the Norwich Union International and although he admits he was a little disappointed with his performance, he and his coach took consolation in the fact he had used a shortened run-up.

"Steve and I are sure that, once I move to the full run-up I can get close to the 5.50metre mark in time for the UK champs next weekend."

The Tour is a great way for Simpson to get in some pretty meaningful competition without too much pressure.

"I'd hoped there might have been a few Welsh internationals but I hadn't heard anything so when I was invited to jump on the Tour, I accepted," he added.

"They are great events. The organisers book a conference hall, erect a couple of pole vault beds and the athletes run down the aisles between the seats.

"It's all disco and rock music, flashing lights and smoke machines with the audience clapping and cheering like mad.

"I jumped at a similar event in Manchester where there were about 100 people in the audience, but there were more than 1,000 at the first Tour event and there could be more at the next, in Limoges.

"They are mainly for the benefit of the elite French jumpers, of course, but they invite a few others from outside France and they are very popular. It's good entertainment."

Apart from the Tour, Simpson is booked to jump in Prague before the world trials and UK championships in Sheffield next weekend.

But Simpson knows it will require a major improvement to push him into the reckoning for the world indoor championships in Spain next month.

"The A standard is 5.70m and the B standard is 5.55m but I'm not going to kid myself," he admitted.

"But I am glad Louise and I moved to Loughborough.

"We miss Cardiff but we aren't ruling out moving back some time in the future.

"This was something I had to do to find out just what I am capable of achieving.

"I wouldn't be here if I didn't think I could jump a lot higher."


TOTALLY FOCUSED Scott Simpson has been giving his all for his sport.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Feb 2, 2008
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