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Long: Phillips can Raine's supreme in China Games

PUBLISHED: 17:35 07 August 2008 | UPDATED: 13:30 05 October 2010

By PHIL RAVITZ THE man who introduced Phillips Idowu to athletics feels that his protégé s attitude has now changed sufficiently for the triple jumper to win Olympic gold this month. Humphrey Long was head of PE at Idowu s former school Raine s Foundatio

By PHIL RAVITZ

THE man who introduced Phillips Idowu to athletics feels that his protégé's attitude has now changed sufficiently for the triple jumper to win Olympic gold this month.

Humphrey Long was head of PE at Idowu's former school Raine's Foundation in Bethnal Green for over 30 years and the 75-year-old is convinced that his former pupil has developed the mental toughness to triumph in Beijing.

"This year Phillips has proved he can perform well under pressure," says Long. "In the past, when someone had landed a big jump before he jumped himself, he had a tendency to let that affect him and dropped away. Not any more."

When Idowu first came to Raine's, Long reveals that he showed no real sporting ability.

"He didn't appear to like football or rugby, but he took to basketball," says the man who taught thousands of east London youngsters during 32 years at the school.

"Unfortunately, he was too much of an individualist at basketball and not a real team player. I always thought that an individual sport like athletics would suit him.''

So at 12 years of age, Idowu was taken along with a group of fellow pupils to Mile End Stadium.

"We used to split into groups and I used to take the triple jump," Long recalls. "I had him among my group and showed them the basic rudiments of the event.

"Phillips seemed to take to it straight away and showed a real aptitude, whereas a number of his contemporaries couldn't master the hop, step and jump technique at all.

"We didn't have the facilities at Raine's that many suburban schools enjoy, so I used to devise a launch board in a passageway leading to the gym, to allow Phillips and others to practice."

Once he was totally proficient in the discipline, Idowu began competing against older pupils, winning a title at the London Schools Championships and then the All-England Schools title.

It was that success that prompted National League club Belgrave Harriers to take an interest and invite him to join them in south London.

He had started his competitive

athletics career with Victoria Park and Tower Hamlets athletics club, but the local outfit had no written arrangement with the young star and couldn't offer the same level of competition as Belgrave.

Idowu left Raine's at 18 and went on to Brunel University in west London to study sports science, having dabbled with the idea of going to study in the United States on a sports scholarship.

Long was among those who counselled him against a move across the Atlantic, fearing that the demands of American colleges' NCAA programmes could result in burn-out.

Long is still in contact with his most famous pupil and in January the pair got together to star in a film for community television, returning to the very landing pit at Mile End Stadium where the gold medal hopeful began his leap to stardom.

"I shall be watching the Olympics on TV and looking out for his event most of all," says Long, who last year was rewarded with a lifetime achievement award for 50 years service to basketball in east London, an honour bestowed on him by the British Basketball Association.

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