- The Washington Times - Monday, August 6, 2012

Relaxed and confident, Brad Walker accepted the congratulations of his fellow athletes after winning the pole vault in the U.S. Olympic trials. Walker was going to London for his second try at a medal.

He hopes this trip will be nothing like Beijing.

For this trip to the Olympics, Walker decided to adopt a new philosophy, a slightly unusual one for an athlete who excels at one of track and field’s most technical events: try and be just a little bit less perfect.

“I made the Beijing team, I had the highest jump in the world that year, and I walked home empty handed,” Walker said about the 2008 Summer Olympics. Favored to win a medal, Walker failed to clear even a qualifying height and never made it to the final.

“I had been to five world championships and have five medals,” he said. “The Olympics was the first major meet that I didn’t take a medal home, and I’m obviously really disappointed about it.”

Four years later, that disappointment still haunts Walker. But it also has fueled his determination.

“One of the things I learned from that experience is I’m a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to my preparation and training,” Walker said. “I tried to prep everything perfectly going into Beijing.”

It didn’t take long for Walker to realize there were some things he simply couldn’t plan for.

Olympic preparation

Walker placed third at the Olympic trials in 2008 with a qualifying jump of 18-4 after setting the American record (19-93/4) one month earlier at the Prefontaine Classic.

Focused on staying in control, Walker went to Beijing prepared for everything except the unexpected.

“One of the things I learned is that the Olympics are everything but perfect or perfectly run,” Walker said.

On the first night of competition, weather caused delays Walker hadn’t counted on. After that, it didn’t take long for the resulting disorganization to disrupt Walker’s carefully planned routine.

“We had a qualifying round at 8 p.m., and I took my last jump past midnight,” Walker recalled. “You don’t train for something like that.”

The delays spelled disaster for Walker, who left Beijing stunned. Eventually, disappointment, then anger, set in.

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