Athlete


Date Inducted: 12 Oct 2017
Sport: Athletics
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Steve Hooker OAM - Athletics

Steve Hooker OAM was Inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame on October 12th 2017 as an Athlete Member for the Sport of Athletics and the first for the discipline of Pole Vault.

Pole vaulter, Steve Hooker was one of the very few athletes in world athletics to hold Olympic, world, world indoor and Commonwealth titles at the same time. His reign as the best in the world reached an apex at the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008 when he won gold with a then Olympic record clearance of 5.96m.  In doing so he became Australia’s first ever Olympic Pole Vault champion and the first Australian field athlete to win an Olympic title since John Winter in 1948. The following year he entered the world championships in Berlin with an injury and won the title with just two attempts and one successful vault in the final.

Hooker’s athletic career started modestly competing in several events at the Box Hill Athletic Club before a fourth-place finish at the world junior championships in 2000 under coach Mark Stewart. He competed at the 2004 Olympics in Athens without making the final before winning the Commonwealth Games title two years later in Melbourne prior to moving to Perth to train with renowned coach Alex Parnov.

His mother Erica Hooker was a long jumper who competed at an Olympic Games and two Commonwealth Games, winning a silver medal in the long jump at the 1978 Games in Edmonton. Father Bill Hooker represented Australia in the 800m and 4 x 400m at the 1974 Commonwealth Games and won four national championships.

Following his first open national crown in 2007, Hooker would soon clear 6.00m for the first time early the following year, just the 13th man ever to have done so and setting his lifetime personal best outdoors. Later that season at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games he won Australia’s first men’s Olympic track and field gold medal for 40 years and the first gold medal by a field athlete in 60 years. At those Games, he also met his future wife, Russian middle-distance runner Yekaterina Kostetskaya.

At the start of 2009, Hooker cleared 6.06m at the Boston Indoor Games setting an Oceania record and making him the third best pole-vaulter across all conditions of all-time. At the world championships in Berlin an injured Hooker nursing a torn adductor passed on every height in the final before a failed attempt at 5.85m was followed by a clearance at 5.90m to win gold. He backed that up in 2010 to win the world indoor crown with a championship record vault of 6.01m.

Midway through 2010 his career took a turn following a bad fall at the Great North City Street Games in Newcastle, but he was still good enough to win gold at the Continental Cup in Split in a championship record and then defend his title at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi.

Injuries and the mental stress of competing at the highest level in a psychologically taxing event took its toll over the next few years, which included struggles at the world championships in Daegu and at the London Olympic Games where he somehow still managed to qualify for the final.

In 2012, he married Kostetskaya and competed in what would eventually be his last ever pole vault competition a day after his son Maxim was born in June 2013.

Hooker announced his official retirement from the sport in April 2014, making his last appearance in a Box Hill singlet at the domestic athletics finals running the 4x400m relay at Albert Park.

 

Click here to read Steve's Induction Media Release from 2017.

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When considering the stature of an athlete or for that matter any person, I set great store in certain qualities which I believe to be essential in addition to skill. They are that the person conducts his of her life with dignity, with integrity, courage, and perhaps most of all, with modesty. These virtues are totally compatible with pride, ambition, and competitiveness.