22nd November 2016

Gale Aiming For Silverware Come 2017

High jump specialist Tom Gale (coach: Denis Doyle) has enjoyed a year of strong progress in 2016 following a spike in form which has seen his outdoor personal best improve by 22cm since the summer of 2015.

The 17-year-old responded to selection for July’s IAAF World Junior Championships in Bydgoszcz, Poland, by jumping a personal best of 2.18m in the final to secure an impressive 9th place finish, whilst he has also earnt British U20 call-ups for both the Loughborough International and Manchester International meets this season.

Following the transition from his season into winter training we caught up with the Bath AC athlete to discuss his season, as well as his plans for 2017.

How would you reflect on your 2016 season as a whole?

Generally I’d say it’s been a really excellent year; I feel like I’ve really pushed from being someone who was really playing at it [high jump] to someone who is now really taking it seriously.

Overall I feel like I’ve really had a really exceptional season, and now working with my coach (Denis Doyle) I can just continue from here. I’ve set a really good foundation for a lot of what I’ll be doing in the future.

A personal best of 2.18m this year saw you leap to 12th on the all-time British U20 list. Did you set a new PB target on the back of that or is it now about finding consistency around that type of height for future competitions?

I feel like I’ve more of a person who aims for the next height; once I get 2.18m, I want 2.20m; once I get 2.20m, I want 2.24m. A lot of my performances and heights I’m wishing for are based on standards and what others have done at the same age as me.

In regards to the 2.18m jump at the World Juniors, I feel like I was almost underachieving for what I can do. I’ve had a few jumps where I really felt like I could have cleared 2.20m or 2.22m, so as soon as I got 2.18m it wasn’t so much a surprise. It was more a thought of ‘I’m finally getting close to what I feel like I can really do’.

Where does your relationship with athletics stem from? Was it a particular athlete or event which influenced you in regards to taking up the high jump?

I wasn’t actually the one who picked up that I might be good at high jump; it was actually one of the teachers at my school who had watched me play basketball.

After seeing me play she just suggested that I give high jump a go; from there she took me along to a county competition which I won, and following that competition I was asked by Caroline Howorth to join Team Bath AC, something I’m hugely grateful to her for and haven’t looked back from since. It’s definitely kind of strange to look back on it and compare where I was then to where I am now.

What does your current schedule look like? And how is winter training going currently?

At the moment it is just training and school. I was employed before but left on the basis of it getting in the way of training.

At the moment everything is going really well; we’re now into the full brunt of winter training, and even though we’re at this point in the year I’m still able to jump decent heights. In training I’m clearing 2.00m and 2.05m, so even though I’m quite fatigued and tired I still feel stronger than I did at this point in 2015. Generally speaking to feel like I’m still progressing, even at this stage, is a big positive.

How pleasing was it to be recognised for your progress with a spot on the Futures programme? Several athletes who were previously on the program have now gone on to become household names both the Olympic & Paralympic side of athletics, does that serve as motivation for yourself?

I don’t really look at it as a comparison to other athletes in this situation. When I’m going for new heights and a new PB, that’s when I compare to others. In a situation like this, it’s not that I’m inspired by others to think ‘wow I’m here and I can go there.’ I just use the fact that I am now a part of the Futures programme as inspiration to think ‘I’m now being recognised, think of what I could do just by continuing to do what I’m doing currently’.

What would be a good 2017 for you? Are there any particular competitions in mind?

My biggest goal is a medal at the European Junior Championships [due to be held in Grosseto, Italy, July 2017]. Whilst I’ll be in the middle of the age group and be an 18-year-old competing against 19-year-olds, I think that I managed to hold my own against an increased level of competition [IAAF World Junior Championships] at a younger age, so next year I really think that I’ve got a good shot of getting a medal, potentially even gold.

Tom Gale is one of 32 athletes supported by the British Athletics Futures Programme 2016/17.  “Futures”, supported by Nike, is a British Athletics support programme for emerging athletes and their coaches which underpins the World Class Performance Programme (WCPP). The 2016-17 programme runs from 1 December 2016 to 30 November 2017 and will continue British Athletics’ drive towards supporting the next generation of talent with more targeted support for athletes and their coaches.