News

Hooker calls an end to stellar career

12 April 2014

ATHLETICS: Australia’s greatest ever pole vaulter Steve Hooker has called time on his outstanding athletics career. 

Competing one last time today in the men’s 200m for his club Box Hill at the Athletics Victoria Shield Final in Melbourne, the decision to retire closes a virtually unrivalled history of success that includes a plethora of major international championships medals and the Oceania and Australian pole vault record of 6.06m. 

“After I run today I will effectively be retired from all forms of athletics and I look forward to the next chapter of my life with my family and friends,” Hooker said. 

“I think this decision began last year on my birthday when I was doing a vault session that didn’t go well. I had a long chat with my coach Dan (Pfaff) and he gave me the freedom to take a break and assess whether it was something I wanted to continue. I came back to Australia and have been fortunate enough to be involved with a lot of things that have brought me great enjoyment and in many ways I haven’t had an urge to go back to vaulting. 

“This made it clear that I needed to decide what the future would be, and after some serious thought I’ve decided to move onto the next phase of my life and focus on new things that bring me as much joy as athletics has for the past 15 or so years.” 

Donning the green and gold for the first time at the 2000 IAAF World Junior Championships, Hooker made his open age international debut at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens (GRE) before again representing his country one year later at the 2005 IAAF World Championships. 

He became a household name in 2006 when in front of 90,000 of his fellow Melbournians he won gold at the Commonwealth Games, before going on to enjoy a stellar period of success that delivered a grand slam of gold medals from the 2008 Olympic Games, the 2009 IAAF World Championships, the 2010 IAAF World Indoor Championships, the 2010 IAAF World Cup and the 2010 Commonwealth Games. 

The captain of the Australian Flame between 2009 and 2012, Hooker went on to compete at the IAAF World Championships in Daegu (KOR) and at the 2012 Olympic Games, with an appearance in the final in London (GBR) his best result. 

“I think in a lot of ways I have been holding out for a happy ending to my jumping that delivered a great result to finish on. I have come to terms with the fact that this perhaps wasn’t possible,” Hooker said. 

“I now know that it is humbling to finish under circumstances that perhaps weren’t expected rather than on a massive high. It is more symbolic of my battles as an athlete across the years, because it has been a challenge at times and it was the difficulty and unpredictability of the pole vault that initially drew me to it.” 

Hooker has now established a base for his young family in Melbourne, with the 31-year-old enjoying life as a new father to son Maxim and husband to fellow athlete Ekaterina Kostetskaya. 

“Family is my biggest priority now. Being a husband and a father is amazing, and I love the change from being an individual athlete with just me to worry about,” Hooker said. 

“I can now spend time supporting Katya in achieving what she wants in her career. She has done so much already but she has results that suggest she is more than capable of doing more and I want to be able to assist as much as I can in making that happen. 

“I have a passion for developing athletes and I want to make sure that I stay involved with the sport to ensure that as many young athletes as possible are afforded the chance to reach their potential. I have learnt a lot in my time and I want to share that with those that are trying to emulate what I have. My experiences have been immense and I think it is vital that those athletes finishing up share that knowledge with those coming through.” 

Noting what has been a truly remarkable career, the Athletics Australia President David Grace QC extended his congratulations on his great achievements and encouraged Hooker to remain active within the sport of track and field. 

“The name Steve Hooker is synonymous with athletics in this country, but more than that it is synonymous with sportsmanship, hard work, dedication and unrivalled commitment to achieving what you set out to. I congratulate him on a stunning career and wish him every success in the future,” Grace said. 

“Steve has over many years brought joy to the Australian sporting public and it is my hope that he continues to engage with the generation of athletes behind him, who see him as a role medal for what they can achieve in both Olympic sport, and sport in general. It’s a testament to Steve, his family, coaches and support networks that he could be as successful as he was over such an extended period of time and his knowledge will prove invaluable to the development of others in our great sport.” 

“Firstly thank you to my coaches Mark Stewart, Alex Parnov and Dan Pfaff. A pole-vaulter is only as good as their coach and I am extremely lucky to have learned from three of the best in the world. Thank you also to the staff of the Victorian Institute of Sport, the Western Australian Institute of Sport and the WorldAthletics Centre for all your help over the years,” Hooker said.

Recognising that his success cannot be attributed to one single person, Hooker offered the following as thanks to those that made him on of the most successful in the history of Australian athletics. 

“Thank you to the Staff and Officials of Athletics Australia, Athletics Victoria and Athletics Western Australia, and thank you to the medical staff that have helped me through my various injuries. 

“I thank my management - Mark Jones from The Sports Group, Maurie Plant, Steffen Keil from Aurum Sports Group and Dave Culbert from Jump Media - and all thesponsors that have supported me to be a professional athlete over the years. I never thought that I could make a living by jumping over a bar and I have enjoyed the privilege of it immensely. 

“Thank you to my Australian Flame teammates for your support and friendship as well as the inspiration you all provide through your great performances. Thank you to my family and friends that have helped me to get through the highs and lows of elite sport. 

“Lastly thank you to all the pole-vaulters that I have trained with and competed against. It is a strange activity and we have created a truly great community around it.”

Hooker will compete in the men’s 200m at the Athletics Victoria Shield Final in Melbourne today. 

He will continue to serve on the AOC Athletes' Commission.

Athletics Australia