A leap into the unknown for long jumper Tomlinson

FF-aug6-ChrisWEB.jpgLong jumper Chris Tomlinson is taking a leap into the unknown this year - and not just at the Olympics.

The British record holder is aiming for a first medal at the Games this summer but he's also gearing up for the challenge of the birth of his first child. It means a busy year for the Newham & Essex Beagles athlete.

He said: "We're getting everything set up because the baby's due in March. I'll get away with not doing a lot in the first few months because of the Olympics, but once they're over I'll have no excuses. I'm looking forward to being a dad, but it won't be a distraction. My wife's being very understanding."

Tomlinson220.jpgTomlinson, bronze medallist at the European Championships two years ago, was an Olympic finalist in 2004. He said he was pleased Olympic year has arrived at last.

"There's been so much talk for so long about it, so it will be good to get the show on the road," he said. "I'm taking it one day at a time and I'm not nervous about it. I'm just gradually trying to improve my performances.

"Athletics is a bit like painting by numbers because you have to join so many things together. You can't just pull on a vest and expect it to all click into place at once."

Last year Tomlinson reached the World Championship final but a knee injury wrecked his chances, gallingly since he'd been in the form of his career after setting a British record of 8.35m in July.

"Last year if I'd stayed healthy I'd have jumped 8.50m, which is only 15cm more than my record," said Tomlinson.

"I just need to be fit this year because the records show that sort of distance wins medals. But 8.50 is pretty special when you consider that 8.60m would get you into the all-time top 10.

"I feel I've got it in me to jump that sort of distance, and to do something like that in the Olympics would be amazing. To get an Olympic medal would be fantastic.

"I had an operation on my knee in September and I'm now back in full-time training after a bit of time off. There's no indoor season for me this year. It's all about the outdoor season and the Olympics.

"The injury was a major thing and in the past I would be champing at the bit to get back into action and return a bit too early. You have to learn from your mistakes. I've got to make sure I'm good to go this year."

Tomlinson480.jpgThere are big expectations for the British team with the Games on home soil and Tomlinson, 30, said the spirit in the camp is good despite the pressure. It's also a chance to inspire the next generation of athletes.

He said: "The spirit in the team is really good. I first got involved in it in 2002 and we had people like Jonathan Edwards, Steve Backley and Colin Jackson at the top but coming to the end of their careers.

"So we were looking for the next athletes to break through, and we've got a whole load of them now - people like Mo Farah, Dai Green, Jess Ennis.

"They are all getting into the world rankings and winning things. That's good for the sport and it will encourage younger athletes."

Tomlinson said although London 2012 is the focus for now, he has not ruled out competing at the Stratford stadium in the World Championships in 2017.

He said: "I'm not looking to far ahead yet, but I train with Yamilé Aldama, who is 39 and was fifth in the Worlds triple jump last year and should get a medal in the Olympics.

"Jumpers often improve with age because it's a technical event, so why not carry on? I love what I do and I'd rather do this than get a normal job. I'm very fortunate because I get paid to go to places like South Africa to train in the sunshine.

"I don't take it for granted and that's why I'm working hard towards the Olympics."

Chris Tomlinson is an ambassador for Alfa Romeo - official car supplier the UK Athletics (UKA). Go to facebook.com/AlfaRomeoUK.