Chris Kandu

Chris Kandu

High jumper is one of Jean Pickering Olympic Scholarship awardees

Motivated by underperforming at last year’s European Junior Championships, 18-year-old Chris Kandu believes that being named as one of the Jean Pickering Olympic Scholarship awardees will help ease some of the financial pressures leading up to this year’s IAAF World Junior Championships in Oregon, where the high jumper hopes to make amends for last year and perform to the best of his ability.

“I have been really motivated by the European Juniors, ” says the Enfield & Haringey athlete. “I had entered the championships equal first in the European junior rankings, but I sustained a knee injury and I didn’t make the final. It was heart-breaking. However, the disappointment really motivated me, not necessarily to train harder, but to train more efficiently, as I don’t want to be in that position at a championship again.”

Having enjoyed a good winter, which saw him jump a PB of 2.22m to win the England Athletics under-20 indoor title, the ambitious teenager has high hopes for this year. The World Juniors is the main target, but if all goes to plan Kandu hopes he will have the opportunity to jump in bigger competitions such as World Challenge and Diamond League meetings to give him experience and confidence jumping with the world’s best. “I want to clear 2.30m this year,” reveals Kandu confidently.

Standing at 6ft 4in, Kandu already jumps well over his head, but the prospect of growing another couple of inches may help him in his quest to improve his PB those extra few centimetres. “I’m still growing, so hopefully I will be 6ft 5in by Oregon!” he says with a grin.

“However, I don’t want to get too much taller, as I don’t want to be a basketball freak! I think that my current height suits me perfectly.”

It appears that Kandu will make good use of the Jean Pickering bursary. He lives with his mum and sister in Enfield and trains with former GB triple jumper John Herbert at Lee Valley. However, Kandu also travels to Birmingham to train alongside 2012 Olympic bronze medallist Robbie Grabarz and to receive specialist high jump coaching from Fuzz Ahmed and Darren Joseph.

“I really didn’t expect this award and it feels very special to have been given it. Robbie told me that he got one prior to 2012 and it really helped. I have seen what he achieved and it motivates me to do the same,” explains Kandu.

The money will allow Kandu to meet Ahmed and Joseph more often, which he feels will pay dividends in his progression as a high jumper.  “I am at the stage where I need to learn advanced high jumping skills and gain experience. The Jean Pickering award will mean I have the support to go to Birmingham two or three times a month and learn new things.

“Just the other day I was training with Robbie and he told me how much I had progressed. I learn so much training with him. Having the funds not only takes the pressure off me, but also my mum and my coaches,” reveals Kandu.

However, the teenager is full of praise for Herbert. “John has great knowledge of high jump and is very experienced. I train with him three times a week,” explains Kandu.

It would seem that high jumping comes quite naturally to Kandu. As a youngster, he had football trials with Queen’s Park Rangers, but when nothing emerged from it, he turned to high jumping and took to it instantly.

“I was passionate about it and progressed. I still love the air time that you get when you hit a jump right,” he says.

There have been many highlights in Kandu’s youthful career, so many that the level-headed teenager finds it impossible to pick a favourite moment. The talented teenager has won six national titles in the past four years, including this year’s national under-20 indoor championships, indoor and outdoor age group titles last year, two under-17 indoor titles in 2011 and 2012 respectively, along with taking top spot in the UK School Games in the Olympic Stadium in 2012.

Reflecting on the experience of jumping at the Stratford venue, Kandu says: “Jumping at the Olympic Stadium in front of my family for the first time in such a big stadium was special to me.”

Following his 2.22m leap indoors, Kandu is quick to put any cynics in their place. “Due to my rapid progression, many people thought I might have trained too much. However, I would argue that I have just been training efficiently. I have learned the concepts of high jumping and I am pushing on forward,” he says.

Yet he is aware that he is far from the complete athlete. “My aim is to continue learning so that I can become an independent athlete, who can jump anywhere and without their coach,” he explains.

Many high jumpers are known to be a bit outlandish. The demands of an event that involve launching yourself over a bar well above head height mean that eccentricity and high jump go hand in hand.

Indeed 2012 Olympic champion Ivan Ukhov from Russia once turned up drunk to a Diamond League event, while Bahamian Donald Thomas won the 2007 world title in basketball shorts and trainers.

Despite this, Kandu claims there is nothing particularly unique about him. “I am different to the stereotypical high jumper. Many of them are a bit weird. That is not me. I am laid back and just a normal kind of guy.”

With that, the Enfield Grammar School pupil, who is currently studying for his A Levels in Business Studies, ICT and Financial Studies hopes he can encourage other youngsters into the sport that he loves.

“I really didn’t expect this award and it feels very special to have been given it. Robbie (Grabarz) told me that he got one prior to 2012 and it really helped. I have seen what he achieved and it motivates me to do the same”

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