Walk of Fame: Robbie Grabarz

Olympic, World and European high jump medallist, Diamond League winner, mentor

High jumper Robbie Grabarz has won Olympic medals, European titles, and the Diamond League, but it hasn’t been an easy journey.
A strong Junior high jumper, Grabarz came second at the 2004 ESAA Championships, before winning in 2005. A good record in domestic competitions at U20, U23 and Senior saw him regularly on the podium, but the step to international was tricky. Grabarz finished 23rd at the 2011 European Indoor Championships, failing to reach the final. He also failed to qualify for the 2011 World Championships, consequently losing his funding.

Grabarz competing in the Men’s High Jump final at the
2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast, Australia.
Image courtesy of Mark Shearman

I realised I didn’t want that disappointment to happen again, and I realised it was my decision to make it not happen again.

Robbie Grabarz, reflecting on his 2011 season
Male athlete in blue and white Team GB shorts and vest with right hand raised in triumph after successful high jump attempt
Grabarz representing Team GB at the 2017 World Championships in London.
Image courtesy of Mark Shearman.

Grabarz moved to Birmingham to train and “make a fresh start so I could give 100% of what I have to offer.” 
He secured financial help from BackleyBlack, the company run by former athletes Steve Backley and Roger Black.
His coach Fuzz Ahmed commented: “If I hadn’t found him backing and if he didn’t have a credit card, I would have funded him. I recognised he had matured into a person that wanted to be a world class high jumper, rather than somebody who was just a very good high jumper.”

2012 was the turning point. In January Grabarz made his international breakthrough, jumping 2.34m indoors and passing Olympic ‘A’ qualifying standard.

In June he jumped 2.31m in Helsinki to win European gold, and in August, at the London 2012 Olympics he cleared 2.29m in the final to take bronze in a three-way tie, since upgraded to silver following the disqualification of gold medallist Ivan Ukhov by the IOC. Victories in Rome and Birmingham saw Grabraz take the 2012 IAAF Diamond League high jump crown and $40,000 prize money.

Grabarz continued to compete, adding European and World Indoor silver to his collection. His PB, 2.37m set at the Lausanne Diamond League in August 2012, equalled the British men’s outdoor record set by Steve Smith in 1992.

Grabarz retired from competition in 2018 and is now a mentor for young athletes.

Robbie’s Memories of English Schools:

ESAA was the catalyst for my love of high level competition, it was a platform that enabled me to try and become the best in my country and that was very exciting. It was a huge motivation to me to keep training harder and better year upon year.

For more information about the England Athletics Talent Pathways, including Youth and Paralympic pathways, and for information about the Amateur Athletic Association Charity for the Young funding opportunities, use the links below