Mitchell Watt - remember that name
By Luke Dennehy
Sunday Herald Sun
August 14, 2011
THE name Mitchell Watt may be virtually unknown now, but the long jumper's star is about to explode much like swimmer James Magnussen's did after winning gold at the recent world championships.
Watt, like Magnussen in the swimming, is favourite to win gold at the World Athletics Championships in Daegu, South Korea, when he jumps for his life on September 2.
The 23-year-old has the three best jumps in the world this year including an Australian record of 8.54m set in Stockholm earlier this month, beating the leap of Jai Taurima who won silver in the Sydney 2000 Olympics.
As with Magnussen, the focus will be on Watt in a big way in Australia as the hype around the London Olympics increases.
This country has never had a gold medallist in the marquee track event that is the long jump.
So who is Mitchell Watt?
Queensland-based, Watt could have easily been playing for Australia at next month's rugby World Cup if it wasn't for a chance athletics session with long jump coach Gary Bourne when he was 19.
He is about to finish a law and economics degree at Queensland University and if it wasn't for the convincing of his coach he could have also been lost to law altogether.
Watt had been a champion age-level athlete when he was 14 but he he gave it all up, he explains.
"I'd won a couple of national titles, but I wanted a bit of a change," he said.
"All my friends were playing rugby and football and that seemed a lot more fun.
"To be honest I didn't miss athletics."
Those friends and teammates included rugby union gun Quade Cooper, who messaged him on Twitter after his Australian record run.
But showing he is a man of pure natural talent, after that chance session when he was 19 he and coach Bourne realised he was good - actually, very good.
In the six months after he started jumping properly again he just missed out on qualifying for the Beijing Olympics in 2008.
In 2009 his meteoric rise in the ranks was confirmed with a bronze medal at the Berlin World Championships and since then he hasn't looked back.
"When I won that bronze medal I was extremely happy, but now it's that gold medal I want," he said.
"I'm in a different mindset to 2009 where I just wanted to make the final. It's all about the gold now."