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GRABARZ: TIME FOR GB GIRLS TO AIM HIGHER; EXCLUSIVE.

Byline: BRIAN DICK Tweet @briandick

BRITAIN'S leading male high jumper says his female counterparts must raise the bar after being beaten by yet another part-timer.

Olympic bronze medallist Robbie Grabarz is full of admiration for heptathlon protege Katarina Johnson-Thompson after she last week broke the British record.

KJT's leap of 1.96m not only eclipsed Debbie Marti's 17-year-old mark, it was also good enough to qualify for the World Indoors, European Championships and Commonwealth Games. She follows in the footsteps of fellow heptathete Jessica Ennis who has been Britain's leading high jumper for the last half decade.

But Grabarz says he couldn't imagine being beaten by an athlete who doesn't even focus on the high jump full time because they have six other events to train for.

And the 26-year-old says that the full timers have to ask themselves some questions.

"It's fantastic," Grabarz said. "But also female high jumping in the UK isn't that strong so they kind of need to go 'I got beat by a multi-eventer, I train full time at this, what am I doing wrong?' or 'What aren't I doing right? Maybe I am just not mentally competitive enough'.

"Being beaten by a multi-eventer would be really, really tough for me. I don't think I could handle it as well as these girls seemed to have handled that, I don't think I could handle it like that."

But for Britain's women high jumpers it has become a regular ignominy with Olympic heptathlon champion Ennis dominant for the last few years.

In both 2012 and 2013 no-one achieved either the A or B standard for the IAAF World Championships in Moscow. Indeed excluding Ennis and KJT only Birchfield's Vikki Hubbard has gone over 1.91m in the last three years although there is hope Isobel Pooley can show international class.

Katarina Thompson Liverpudlian KJT, who also won the indoor long jump title at Sheffield last weekend, certainly has that and Grabarz admits to being impressed by the 21-year-old.

"They were really impressive performances and there's obviously a lot to come. She's jumping high, she's got a great high jump coach who coached Steve Smith as well.

"She's good. She's very tall and strong and she uses her body really well.

"She did an outright British record, on the world level she'd be a top five, top eight finalist if she jumped that at a championships. At her age it's phenomenal."

The Birmingham-based British champion believes KJT could challenge the world-class 2m mark if she were to concentrate on the high jump.

"Being a multieventer you train your body to be great at all aspects, I think that's really good and healthy - then she can put it together in high jump.

Johnson-"I don't know if she'll go 'I know I can jump that and if I want to be a multi-eventer and I don't really need to improve that, what am I weak at?' "You wouldn't want to push something really hard that you're already good at. [But] If she went 'I want to be a high jumper' she could improve lots of things."

Grabarz, who was speaking at the launch of the partnership between MG Motor UK and British Athletics, was in action himself finishing third yesterday as the Sainsbury's Indoor Grand Prix came to the National Indoor Arena.

That was his fourth competition of a hitherto modest, albeit undefeated 2014 campaign, in which he hopes to compete at the World Indoor Championships next month.

After that he will attempt to defend his European title and then go for Commonwealth gold in Glasgow.

The Newham & Essex Beagle is trying to come back from a solid if unspectacular 2013 which included an eighth place finish in Moscow.

He admits he still has some technical improvements to make if he is to add a Commonwealth crown to his continental one.

But while some dismiss it, the gold medal in Glasgow is something he views as worthwhile.

"People probably slate it because it doesn't involve a world field but Asia has the Asian Games, everyone has their own championships or continental cup championships and it's got as much kudos as those. You are still the greatest in the Commonwealth if you win. It's a relevant part of my season, it's not like you rock up jump 2.20m and get a medal, you'll have Olympic medallists, world champions - all these guys from across the Commonwealth it's going to be a tough battle."

Especially for the British women.

CAPTION(S):

Katarina Johnson-Thompson

Robbie Grabarz admits it would be tough to be beaten by a multi-eventer in his specialist high jump discipline.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Feb 16, 2014
Words:772
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