Athletics: Hamish Kerr concentrating on mental side of high jumping as Paris Olympics come into picture

Hamish Kerr is eyeing a medal in 2024, and the country's top high jumper isn't afraid to acknowledge his performance at the Olympics will define how successful his year is.   

The 27-year-old experienced highs and lows in 2023. He failed to qualify for the final at the World Championships in Budapest, then a week later recorded his greatest jump outdoors.   

And Kerr hopes his extra work on the mental side of jumping can lead to Olympic success later this year. 

Hamish Kerr.
Hamish Kerr. Photo credit: Photosport

Early summer mornings training may seem a long way from Paris. But it's hard work Kerr knows is crucial to reaching his end goal.    

"I'd be lying to say the Olympics isn't the biggest thing we ever do as track and field athletes," he told Newshub.   

"It absolutely is."   

Some of his performances in 2023 suggest he'll be a medal hope.     

Kerr claimed his first Diamond League title, and later recorded his personal best jump outdoors of 2.33m.   

But there were also lows.    

"We didn't get it right at world champs," Kerr confessed. "I was obviously knocked out in the qualifying round, which was a little bit unexpected given my world ranking, and how I felt going into the competition."   

Considering he was in career-best form a week later, Kerr puts his struggle down to complacency - regarding the mental side of the sport in particular.  

"It's a pretty confronting sport when it's pass or fail," he said.   

That's something that played on his mind on that day in Budapest.   

"I missed my first attempt at 2.25m, and pretty much straight away, I was thinking about the outcome," he explained.   

"I was thinking about what happens, 'What if I don't clear this?'"   

It's something he's continuing to work on with mental skills coach John Quinn; in particular, a process called 'step back, step up, step in'.     

"What I actually do is usually take my shoes off, chuck my tracksuit on, and just go for a walk on the track. 

"I just look into the crowd, and see if there's anyone wearing funny dresses or any sort of costumes.   

"[I'm] just trying to be present."   

It may just be the key to performing when it matters most.    

"I think I'm getting there. I think that when the pressure is off, I'm awesome at it.   

"But it's just working on how can we create that pressure a bit more, and really tighten the screws in training?"   

Kerr hopes that hard work on his body as well as his mind, can lead to Olympic success in Paris.