German high jumper credits his chilled out mental approach for his best performance

Potye Tobias
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Tobias Potye became the first German to win the high jump title at the European Athletics Junior Championships in 34 years. 

German athlete Tobias Potye had more reason to celebrate than most champions at the European Athletics Junior Championships in Rieti last month. Not only had he cleared a personal best of 2.20m to win the high jump competition, but he also became the first German winner of the high jump at the European juniors for 34 years!!

Dietmar Mögenburg won the high jump at the European Juniors in Bydgoszcz in 1979, but since then, Germany had failed to produce another champion in the event until Potye’s victory in Rieti. First and foremost, the 18-year-old wanted to jump well for his personal satisfaction, but the teenager admits that high jump had been somewhat overlooked in his homeland in recent years.

The desire to put high jump back in the limelight in Germany and restore his country’s strong reputation in the event served as additional motivation for Potye. The level-headed youngster says: “Germany has traditionally been strong in the high jump and is still today, but in the last 10-15 years among young athletes, the event has not always taken centre stage. However, that has changed now and we had many qualifiers for Rieti in the high jump, which demonstrates improving standards, which have perhaps come about due to the success this year and last year.”

When Potye talks of success in the event last year, he is referring to Falk Wendrich’s silver medal from the world juniors in Barcelona with a clearance of 2.24m. Wendrich had also been on hand to offer tips to Potye prior to the competition and whatever he said clearly inspired Potye, who first cleared a personal best of 2.18m, before clearing a world junior lead of 2.20m on his first attempt, which pushed Belarus’ Andrei Skabeika and Russian Mikhail Akimenko into the minor medal positions. “Falk told me to believe in myself and I would win a medal,” reveals Potye.

Described by his coach Manfred Knopp as a ’cool dude’, due to the fact that he is always relaxed but at the same time focused, it is fitting that it was arguably Potye’s mental temperament that led to him taking home the gold from Rieti. In qualification, he had not looked at his best, but Potye feels that this, along with the decision to jump at the Bavarian Championships the week prior to Rieti where he jumped a pb of 2.17m, contributed to him producing his best when it mattered most. He explains: “Jumping a pb so close to Rieti really strengthened my confidence. After the qualification in Rieti, national event coach Jan-Gerrit Keil told me that I was rushing my jumps. We picked out the Russian and Belrussian as favourites for gold and silver, but realised there was no high-flyer and bronze was there for the taking. I just needed to do better.”

Perhaps helped by the fact he could enter the final under the radar, Potye returned with a relaxed mindset and learned from his qualification mistakes. Such an attitude paid dividends. “I never stopped believing in myself, even after the ordinary qualification and in fact, I think that was an advantage, as on the startlist I only had 2.16m next to my name, but I knew I could go higher,” explains Potye.

Potye hopes that his European junior title will prove to be an important stepping stone in his quest to emulate his idol Mutaz Barshim, who this year cleared 2.40m. But first, he has his sights set on making the final of the World Juniors in Eugene next year. “Perhaps I will meet many other European jumpers again there, as high jump is a strong discipline in Europe at the moment,” reveals Potye.