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Saturday, August 27, 2011
Reigning world champion Hooker out early

By Associated Press

DAEGU, South Korea -- Steve Hooker's less-than-stellar warmup before the pole vault competition at the world championships turned into a lackluster performance and an early exit Saturday in the qualifying round.

Just like that, the reigning world champion from Australia was done after failing to clear a height.

"I had no confidence in what I was doing out there," said Hooker, who captured gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. "I felt kind of lost out there on the runway. It was tough to take off, tough to get jumps down when you're feeling that way."

Hooker has been working his way back from a nagging knee injury, one that's crimped his training and curtailed his competition schedule. This was only Hooker's third competition of the season.

The rust was apparent.

"It looks different when you're running in with aggression and fire in your belly," said Hooker, who won at the 2009 worlds in Berlin with a vault of 19 feet, 4 1/4 inches. "I really wasn't feeling it from the get-go out there today. My warmup was a struggle, shut that down early. I was just hoping the competition would get me up. It just wasn't there."

Hooker failed to clear a height of 18-0½.

"There are no excuses for what happened today," Hooker said. "Three run-throughs at 5.50 [18-0½] at world champs is not on. I would expect more from myself than that. It's disappointing it happened that way."

With that, Hooker's season is over. He's going to take time off to prepare for the 2012 London Olympics, which are right around the corner.

"If I have to take a positive out of it, it's that I'm healthy," Hooker said. "Finishing the year healthy is the first time I've done that since 2008. That means I'll get an early start on my preparation for next year and get the jumps in that I missed this year."

Given his limited training schedule, Hooker could have easily just skipped the worlds and it would have been understandable.

But he wanted to at least try to defend his title.

"In a way, I probably don't look that upset right now. In a way, I am relieved that it's over," Hooker said. "I put pressure on myself in this competition and I put pressure on myself to get back. I rushed things to get back.

"It could've been easy for me not to come, but it's not really in my nature. I wanted to come here and give it my best shot that I could. I was hoping for results still. But not today."