📷 : British Athletics
Making his international debut for Team England in the High Jump at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, Tom Gale recently received the Bronze Medal at the British Championships in Birmingham, and is now targeting the 2020 Olympics. Tom competed in his last European U23 Championships earlier this year where he made the final and went on to gain the Silver Medal in his competition. We chatted with Tom about making his England debut at the Gold Coast, the European U23 Championships and how he got into High Jump.
How did you get into High Jump and what do you remember from your first competition?
My first competition was at my school in 2013. It was a competition to qualify to compete at the county championships the following week, which my PE teacher Mrs Marshall suggested I compete in after noticing I was fairly springy whenever we played basketball or did any athletics. I remember being super nervous because I’d only ever once competed for my school which was in rugby, which as you’d expect from somebody of my build, didn’t go too well.
How often do you train and what does it involve?
I will usually train four times a week, and that will involve three track sessions and one gym session. A training session will typically last two to four hours because of the nature of my event. High jump is a super technical event, so we do a lot of repetitions focusing on the way I’m moving and developing my plyometric output as much as possible.
Were there any sports you considered before deciding on High Jump?
I’ve tried every sport under the sun but never really stuck to any because I never really loved playing sports seriously. I was pretty good at hockey, but the team aspect was something that frustrated me.
What do you enjoy most about your career?
I love going out and competing. I’m a pretty awkward guy but when I compete, I just feel like a different person. Doing something that I’m exceptional at in front of hundreds and sometimes thousands of people is such an incredible feeling. Standing there confident as you can be and starting a clap, shouting at the crowd when you want more energy is something I will never take for granted.
Have you been given any advice that has stayed with you and what would you have liked to know about the career before starting out?
Not so much a specific piece of advice, but I remember talking to Gianmarco Tamberi at the Zurich Diamond League in 2017, and listening to some of his experiences and the experiences of others made me realise that you just have to be so patient in this sport. You can be the most talented person in the world but there are some things in life that just take time regardless of how hard you work.
How did it feel making your international debut representing England?
Representing England at the Commonwealth Games was awesome. For an international debut I think I couldn’t have been luckier. Competing in Australia with a super supportive team and a couple of good friends around me was insane. The competition wasn’t great and training into the event itself didn’t go anywhere near as well as I’d hoped, but the overall experience was unforgettable.
How did you find the experience at the 2018 Commonwealth Games?
As I said before the experience was amazing. If I could go back the only thing I’d change is how I spent my time. I spent a lot of time doing what other people were doing but I wish I’d been more comfortable just relaxing on my own pre comp. I didn’t spend enough time mentally preparing for comp so I went into the warm up super nervous but that subsided fairly quickly and I learnt from my mistake.
You recently competed at the British Championships in Birmingham, can you tell us how this went?
With the circumstances I had, the British Champs went about as well as I could’ve hoped for. I’d sprained my ankle four weeks prior and it hadn’t healed completely, and I went on to realise a tendinopathy had been developing for a while in my patella tendon (left leg) mid competition, so to go on and get a bronze medal with 2.22m was pretty good. I know if I had been able to stay healthy all season I would’ve had a much better result but that’s just the nature of the sport.
Can you tell us about the European U23 Championships 2019 where you won silver?
Euro U23s was sick. It was so funny because I went into the competition with a very F it mentality. I knew I’d prepared well and was having a good season so I thought I might as well just enjoy my last International Age-Group Championships as much as I could. I had a very rocky qualifying after clearing my opening height on third attempt which is a very ME thing to do. The final went a lot smoother where I cleared all heights first attempt up until 2.23m which I cleared third attempt and cleared the next two heights first attempt again with a final result of 2.27m. The thing that really cost me a gold medal was not being aware of the score card. I thought the competition had ended but it ends up we had a jump off and after winding down mentally, I couldn’t refocus in time and the Belarusian athlete took the gold clearing 2.29m.
How do you stay focused during a competition?
For me it’s about knowing when to get serious. We’re out there for one, two, maybe even three hours at a time, so if you spend the entire time focusing as intensely as you physically can, you’ll be exhausted before you get anywhere near the higher heights. Between jumps we’re mostly pretty chilled in the field and might even be having some very normal conversations. Being able to dip in and out of that focused state is something you learn as you progress through the sport and I’m still progressing and learning that six years after I started.
What would you say has been the highlight of your career so far?
I wouldn’t say I’ve got one individual highlight, but my best moments include competing at Zurich Diamond League, becoming the second ever British U20 to clear 2.30m and representing England at the Commonwealth Games.
What sports do you like watching?
I actually don’t watch many sports. I might go to the pub with my friends to watch the odd football game but I don’t really watch anything but athletics, and even then I’ll only watch if it’s a friend of mine competing.
Were there any athletes who inspired you when growing up?
Barshim has always been pretty inspiring since I’ve been high jumping. Something about the way he jumps seems so effortless. I’ve never tried to emulate him or struggled with imposter syndrome but he’s always been the target.
Are you training for any upcoming competitions and when is your next event?
The big goal currently is the Olympic Games. Next year they’re basing everything on ranking points instead of heights, and in 2019 I finished 29th in the ranking and the top 32 are selected for the games, so if I can have another good year, I should be there. I’m hoping to have an even better year next year and have made strides in my diet and recovery so I’m doing everything in my power to make it.
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