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Beagles athlete happy with Olympic bronze

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Robbie Grabarz said he would strip for a naked lap of the Olympic Stadium if he won high jump gold at the London 2012 Games.

But Newham & Essex Beagles’ Grabarz, 24, who posed for gay magazine ‘Attitude’ earlier this year, had to settle for keeping his clothes on and a bronze medal at the Olympic Stadium tonight.

Three failures at 2.33m meant Enfield-born Grabarz had to share third place with Canada’s Derek Drouin and Mutaz Essa Barshim, of Qatar.

But he was happy enough to make it onto the podium at his first Games and said: “It was great, to be honest. I had so much fun.

“Having 80,000 people cheering for you is quite an incredible thing. It was really loud and nice. Really enjoyable.

“I could’ve jumped higher, but it was great. European champion and Olympic bronze medal, I’m happy and very proud.

“Waiting to see if Jamie Nieto would clear 2.36 seemed like a long wait, but if someone had told me in January this was possible, I wouldn’t have believed them.”

When London was awarded the Games in 2005, the 17-year-old Grabarz – who also represented Cambridgeshire at hockey as a youngster – added seven centimetres to his high jump best to clear 2.22m in a Southern League match.

Seven years on, having qualified comfortably for this Olympic final with a first-time clearance at 2.29m yesterday, Grabarz passed on the final’s opening height of 2.20m.

Entering the competition at 2.25m, he cleared it comfortably to the delight of his home crowd.

Curving in towards the bar, from right to left, Grabarz arced his way over and raised his arm to salute the fans as they roared their approval.

It was a similar story at 2.29m, but Grabarz, who set a personal best of 2.36 in New York in June – good enough to win gold at the last three Olympics – knocked the bar off three times at the next height.

Russian Ivan Ukhov and American Eric Kynard went clear at 2.33, before Ukhov – who gained notoriety for jumping while drunk in 2008, a feature of a YouTube clip – claimed gold with a clearance of 2.38.

Grabarz, who has Polish roots and likes the country – “great place to party, cheap beer” – is a bit of a character himself.

He dropped out of Loughborough University after just six weeks, as he didn’t like all the talk being about sport, and lost his funding in 2011.

Grabarz admitted he was two weeks away from living off his credit card, but went on to finish sixth at the World Indoor Championships with a clearance of 2.34m.

A keen skateboarder, who also likes to read – he has 9,000 books to go on his Kindle and enjoys authors such as Tom Sharpe and John Irving – Grabarz developed an interest in classic cars after buying an old VW Beetle and learning how to fix it.

And he reached a crossroads in his career, when he seriously thought about turning his back on athletics.

Coach Fuzz Ahmed gave him an ultimatum and, after spending a couple of days in the pub thinking things over, wondering about a future in the classic car industry, Grabarz chose to keep jumping.

He climbed to second in the world rankings and, when previously discussing his sporting career, said: “How great is this life? I turn up to a track, mess around for a couple of hours, travel the world, see lots of things and get to wear a tracksuit all the time.

“If you have a target you are putting a limit on what you can do. This is a head game.”

Grabarz is clearly a thinker and has revealed he always has a notepad nearby to scribble down thoughts and ideas.

But, despite going into the crowd to see his family, he did not have any clear thoughts on how he would be celebrating his Olympic bronze.

He added: “I saw my mum and brother, I imagine they were quite proud. But I didn’t make any plans. There’s plenty of time for parties.

“I’ll probably keep my head down and have a few drinks with some friends. I’m knackered.”

But when he wakes up and the realisation sets in, Grabarz will be able to read as many books, drink as many beers and restore as many old cars as he wants, comforted by being an Olympic medalist.

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