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Saturday April 12, 2014 MYT 9:27:20 AM
Saturday April 12, 2014 MYT 9:28:20 AM
MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Australia's former Olympic pole vault champion Steve Hooker has announced his retirement at the age of 31, citing waning motivation.
Hooker's gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics made him the first Australian man to win a track and field gold in 40 years and kicked off a two-year period of global dominance that reaped world and indoor titles.
A serious knee injury in 2010 and a subsequent confidence crisis took their toll, but the shaggy-haired vaulter dug deep to qualify for the London Olympics where he reached the final.
"I think this decision began last year on my birthday when I was doing a vault session that didn't go well," he said in a statement posted on governing body Athletics Australia's website (www.athletics.com.au) on Saturday.
"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."
Later on Saturday, Hooker will take a low-key bow at a regional athletics meeting for his Melbourne club Box Hill but will run in a 200 metres sprint rather than contest a pole vaulting event.
Married to Russian middle distance runner Ekaterina Kostetskaya and a new father to son Maxim, Hooker said he looked forward to spending more time with his family and suggested he would take a coaching role.
"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," said Hooker, whose 2008 personal best of 6.06 metres leaves him the third highest jumper of all time behind Frenchman Renaud Lavillenie and Ukrainian great Sergey Bubka.
"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."
(Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Peter Rutherford)
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