ANOTHER major championship, another final where Chris Tomlinson will be battling against his body as much as his opponents in the long jump pit.
Tomlinson needed just one jump to negotiate yesterday’s qualifying session and book his place in this evening’s Commonwealth Games final, but it was probably just as well he wasn’t tested further given that his quadriceps muscles were struggling to cope with the effort required to leap 7.89m.
The Teessider is hoping he will be able to string together a full sequence of leaps this evening, and accepts he will have to significantly improve on yesterday’s performance to compete for a medal in a field that is headed by Olympic champion Greg Rutherford.
On his very best form, he should be more than capable of finishing in the top three, but after a succession of injury problems in the last few years, the 32-year-old is clearly frustrated at experiencing yet more problems in Glasgow.
“I’ll have to try and nurse it through, and we’ll have to see it responds,” said Tomlinson. “It’s the quad again. It was 100 per cent a week or so ago, but now it’s started to rear its ugly head again.
“It’s about managing it. I only took one jump in qualifying, and you only need one jump in a final to win. We’ll see how it goes, but it’s about time I got a bit of luck on my side.
“If I’m going to get a medal, I’ll have to jump further than I did in qualifying. I’ve jumped 8.23m this year, but then I got hurt. Anywhere round about there would be great, but since jumping 8.23 I haven’t really put my foot on the accelerator. I’m going to have to do that in the final and see what happens.”
Rutherford is nursing injury worries of his own, but the Olympic champion looked somewhere near his best as he sailed out to 8.05m with his first qualifying effort.
Much has been made of Tomlinson’s uneasy relationship with Rutherford in the wake of the latter’s controversial new British record, which Tomlinson still maintains was a no-jump, but the North-Easterner insists the pair retain cordial links.
“People like to make up rivalries, and I guess it makes the sport a bit more interesting,” he said. “It certainly gets the media talking, and that’s all fine.
“He wants to beat me, and I obviously want to beat him, end of story. But we used to be training partners and we’ve been room-mates before, it’s fine.
“It’s just a case of us wanting to beat each other when we compete. There’s a few guys I might have a fractious relationship with, but he’s certainly not one of them.”
Fellow Teessider Jade Jones also enjoyed a successful morning as she qualified for tomorrow night’s 1,500m T54 final by finishing third in her heat.
Jones is hoping to challenge Paralympic champion Shelly Woods for a medal, having produced a well-judged tactical performance to come through yesterday’s opening round.
“It went really well,” said Jones. “The aim with my coach was to do enough to make the final. That meant finishing in the top three, and I did it.
“It was really tactical for a heat, and you don’t normally have that, but it’s good to get that kind of experience going into a final because that’s exactly what it’ll be like, only with more people.”
Brompton’s Will Smith made the final of the men’s equivalent, swerving his way around a tumbling Patrick Obeng to finish in third position and follow multiple Paralympic gold medallist David Weir out of the heats.
“I’m lucky enough to train with David and he’s an inspiration,” said 18-year-old Smith, who was born and raised in North Yorkshire, but now lives in Norwich. “To be competing against him in a final is brilliant. I’m really pleased to have qualified through in the top three. This is my first major championships and the whole thing is invaluable experience.”