There’s something innately frustrating about interviewing Robbie Grabarz, Britain’s most improved athlete and one of our leading contenders for Olympic gold.
The 24-year-old from Birmingham is courteous, expansive, amusing even and he seems perfectly happy to answer anything that’s put to him.
But – and this says more about simple-minded journalists than it does about the world’s second best high jumper – there’s no secret weapon, no ground-breaking diet nor cutting edge training technique to explain his mind-boggling improvement.
You see, it’s much easier to write about Novak Djokovic’s transition to a gluten-free life or Graham Obree’s bike made from washing machine parts, and sports stories are enriched by an epiphany or a Eureka moment.
But Grabarz hasn’t gone in for that. “If I had thought about it and challenged myself I could have done this years ago. But I was happy then as well,” is all he says. There is no secret.
How did you respond to losing your lottery funding by setting three personal bests and taking the European title in your first major championships? “I decided to.”
Was there a moment when it all came together? “Not really, I just worked hard through the winter.”
How did it feel to set a new PB in your first competition of the year? “I would have been surprised if I hadn’t performed.”
Do you mind all the attention you get now? “I knew I was going to perform well so I expected all of this to come with it.
Right that’s fine then, interview over, thanks for your time. I’ve decided I’m going to beat Usain Bolt over 100 metres so I must dash.
And therein lies the secret, extraordinary natural ability. Clearly my chances of skinning Bolt are more than slightly undermined by the odd physical shortcoming or 20.
Grabarz, though, has been a slow burner for many years, known to everyone in the sport as an athlete who would be a seriously good if he ever put his mind to it. And so he did.
If there was a watershed it lasted several months. “I had a really bad 2011, I thought ‘I don’t want this to happen again’, or end a season thinking ‘Another waste of a year’.
“So I took myself away, had a few harsh words with my coach and made sure this is what I want to do and what I love doing. I came back and decided this is what I want to do and there’s nothing else.”
It was a simple case, therefore, of returning to winter training and trying hard at each and every session, not cutting corners or letting his mind wander as he had in the past.
And there we have it, a nice, neat, facile explanation. Grabarz, who had dropped out of university, had a commitment problem.
“You have got to get yourself in a position where you know this is what you want to do.” he says.