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Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Crowd gutted as Snowball smashes high jump world record

The moment had arrived. Thousands of fans gleefully dipped their grubby hands into coat pockets and emerged clutching the latest in video recording technology. The gun went off; the crowd pressed record and awaited the infamous water jump.

7,000 eager spectators had purchased BUCS tickets at the Olympic Stadium specifically for this: Ben Snowball’s inevitable collision with a wooden obstacle in the 3000m steeplechase.

But it did not pan out the way they expected, and the on duty lifeguard remained unused.

Squelchy feet aside, the only issue emerging from the race was the Sheffield athlete's karate-style jumping that threatened the others runners safety.

Twice his sprawling limbs nearly wrecked the races of athletes who had ambitions of making Monday’s final (a feat Snowball had no need to pursue as he had family plans - including a monster roast dinner - arranged that day.)

In fact so nervous was he about smashing into the immovable hurdles that he leapt high above them, later learning that he had obliterated the high jump world record on 35 separate occasions throughout the ordeal.

Having trained twice for the event, on Mother’s Day and then again in late-April, he knew there was a chance records could tumble – it just didn’t occur that these might not be running related.

It was later confirmed officials were reviewing the race footage and had informed the IAAF of a new (TBC) high jump world standard of 2.89 metres.

Snowball’s race preparation was far from conventional, having previously made the final of a competition to commentate at the event.

You might have heard his voice booming out across the Olympic Stadium as he made a quite mundane 1500m heat into the ‘race of the century’ through his range of vocabulary – using such words as ‘congested’ and ‘tactical’ to drum up a pulsating atmosphere.

Lord Sebastian Coe said: “It was some of the most inspirational commentary I have ever heard, perhaps the most powerful athletics coverage since Channel 4 in Daegu.”

Twenty-five minutes later Snowball was trackside. After doing a 240m warm up, and receiving a stern telling off from a (presumably divorced) official for having his vest un-tucked, he popped his toes behind the start line ready for the gun.

Representing England – in particular the University of Sheffield – he galloped around the track, stealing the show to finish third last in his heat.

The performance ranks among Snowball’s greatest, and was tipped to become etched upon worthwhile pub quizzes across the globe.

Next time you’re asked: “Who came 20th in the second heat of the 3000m men’s steeplechase at the BUCS Outdoor Athletic Championships 2012 at the Olympic Stadium?” you’ll be able to lean in, whisper the answer to your stunned unknowledgeable teammates, and sit there smugly sipping your diet coke (or pepsi) for the remainder of the quiz.

It was a truly remarkable end to another chapter from an athlete who was once referred to as a ‘joke’. Sacrificing social events to visit the nation’s muddiest fields and red ovals has proved a stern task over the years and not produced the rewards he hoped for.

Injuries and laziness have proved too difficult to conquer in recent months and he is expected to announce an extended break from the sport shortly.

The BUCS Championships will also be remembered for one of the most appalling renditions of ‘God Save The Queen’ by the Military Wives. The group hit just three of the 189 notes, ranking it the worst live performance of the 21st century. The group’s conductor was arrested pending investigation.

Watch the debacle at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JdMX6UzeHzs...

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