Flying long jumper Fabrice Lapierre admits he can be one hard athlete to motivate.
But when he’s really in the mood, as was most definitely the case in the world championships final on Tuesday night, he takes some beating.
The only man who jumped further than the 31-year-old Lapierre was his close friend and training partner Greg Rutherford from Britain, who also relegated Mitchell Watt to second place at the 2012 London Olympics.
Lapierre has battled a series of hamstring problems since his golden year of 2010 and twice toyed with thoughts of retirement.
His heart sank when he again felt pain in the right hamstring during his warm-up at the Bird’s Nest.
But Lapierre gritted his teeth and improved as the competition wore on, moving into the silver-medal position with 8.20m in the second last round and finishing off with 8.24m – jumps bettered only by Rutherford, who won gold with 8.41m.
Rutherford noticed the Australian was struggling physically and advised him to strap his right leg before the final two rounds.
The pair train together in Arizona under the tutelage of US master coach Dan Pfaff.
“It’s awesome because we motivate each other; we thrive off each other,” said Lapierre of Rutherford.
“It’s nothing but love and it only helps both of us out really.
“We’re great friends – we get along great.
“But I don’t look at him as the benchmark – not at all. I just do my own thing.”
Lapierre’s career has been at the crossroads twice in the past few years, but he has found a new lease of life under Pfaff after deciding to dedicate himself to the sport through until the Rio Olympics.
He has always had the talent – as shown in 2010 when he won world indoor and Commonwealth gold, set his PB of 8.40m and also produced an astonishing wind-assisted leap of 8.78m in Perth.
But harnessing that talent has often been the problem.
“I’ve kind of been guilty of not being focused before, having fun and stuff like that,” said Lapierre, who has been based in the US for the past decade.
“But I figured in 2014, two more years, just try and stay focused.
“Diet, lifestyle, all those things – I wasn’t the greatest at it.
“I know on my day, when I really feel like it, and I know it might sound bad but I don’t always feel like jumping, I need to get motivated.
“If I’m motivated on a day, then I can jump well.
“I like coming from behind. I like the pressure.”
Lapierre expected to continue the upward trend all the way to the Rio Olympics, by which time Watt – another Pfaff-trained athlete who has barely been sighted since London 2012 – could also be back in the mix.
“This is my first year with Dan and normally you see results in the second year,” said Lapierre, who won Australia’s first medal of the 2015 world titles.
“That’s what he told me, that I’m probably going to be better next year than this year anyway.
“It takes a bit of time to learn his program.
“I told myself if I can be 100 per cent, I can challenge for gold.”
Australia has had a long run of near misses in the men’s long jump at major championships with Theo Bruce (1948), Gary Honey (1984), Jai Taurima (2000) and Watt all claiming Olympic silver.
Watt also finished second at the 2011 world championships.