Acton Athlete Wins Silver Medal
Losing Lottery funding "made difference"
Part-time Acton resident Germaine Mason, whose mother lives here, claimed an unexpected silver in the high jump to take Team GB's first track and field medal at these Games. Mason, a relative unknown who was born in Jamaica but switched nationality in 2006, cleared 2.34m and clinched second place after beating the Russian Yaroslav Rybakov in a countback.
Mason was unable to clear the next height of 2.36m - which would have been a personal best - but the failure of Sweden's defending champion Stefan Holm to clear 2.34m had already guaranteed the 25-year-old Birchfield Harrier a medal.
Twelve months ago Mason's form was so disappointing because of injury that he was taken off the UK Athletics world-class lottery funding. It was one of the driving forces he needed to produce the best performance of his career here last night. "It made a big difference," said Mason. "That [no funding] is one of the things that motivated me to come out here and do my best. Track and field is not a sport that pays a lot. It was very tough. But I am here, a silver medallist."
Rybakov, and his compatriot Andrey Silnov, were the only competitors alongside Mason to jump 2.34m. Because of the Briton's better failure rate, Rybakov was required to make 2.36m to deny Mason silver, but he was unable to do so. Silnov then coolly cleared 2.36m to secure gold.
The medal is Britain's first in the high jump since Steve Smith's bronze in Atlanta 12 years ago. Team GB's Tom Parsons and Martin Bernard finished eight and ninth respectively.
As he wandered off the track after his winning jump, he was given a huge hug by the sprinter who shared his last championship glory with him. "We are friends, we have been friends from way back in 2002," said Usain Bolt, the Jamaican who won the 100m in such impressive style on Saturday. "I am very happy for him. To me, it does not really matter who he competes for."
Mason's father David is English, but he lives in Jamaica - where the high jumper was born - while his mother Carol is Jamaican but lives in Acton. He has dual nationality and after first leaving Jamaica in 2005 when he fell out with his coach, Stephen Francis, he now spends six months of the year back on the island with the same man and a group that includes the former 100m world record holder Asafa Powell.
"I spend six months of the year in Jamaica, training with Stephen Francis, and I come back to Europe to do the European circuit," he said. Twelve months ago his form was so disappointing because of injury that he was taken off the UK Athletics world-class lottery funding. It was one of the driving forces he needed to produce the best performance of his career here last night. "It made a big difference," said Mason. "That [no funding] is one of the things that motivated me to come out here and do my best. Track and field is not a sport that pays a lot. It was very tough. But I am here, a silver medallist."
In the space of 30 seconds Mason said his home is both Britain - "I feel very British. Britain is my home and that is where it is going to be forever" - and Jamaica. And by the attention he was receiving, it was something of a shared success. A leading member of the Jamaican media said that, "when Germaine left, there was a public outcry."
"I am very happy, I am overwhelmed," said Mason. "I am super-duper right now. My hopes going into the Olympics were very good. I have been jumping consistently in my last few meets and this is the Olympics. Anything can happen and there is no medal for any specific person.
"I just wanted to go out there and do the best I could. I did that, I equalled my personal best and I won a silver medal."
August 29, 2008