Name: Phillips Idowu
Sport: Triple jump
Hometown: Hackney, East London
Why you should care about him: Idowu is known for being a showman—he has "crimson-dyed hair [...] facial piercings and the exuberance of the natural exhibitionist"—and having some issues with authority. His exhibitionist streak got the better of him last summer, when he announced his intention to pull out of the European championships via Twitter instead of actually telling any of his coaches directly. UK head athletics coach Charles van Commenee said after the incident, "That's simply not done. He knows that now"—video here, if you want to how the Dutchman pronounces "Twitter" (twee-tare). Idowu apparently did not know that, then or now: He sent out a link to van Commenee's criticisms with the comment, "Read this crap!" Idowu demanded a public apology from his coach four days later and has been demanding one ever since, going so far as to leave van Commenee hanging on a handshake offer during a photo-op at a London airport. By the times the games start in London—roughly a triple jump from where Idowu grew up—the athlete and his coach won't have spoken for over a year.
Olympics/world championship experience: Placed sixth in the 2000 games in Sydney, won a silver at the 2002 Commonwealth Games. Suffered a knee injury in 2003 but rehabbed in time for the games in Athens—only to post three "no jumps." Won gold in the 2008 Olympic trials, but only silver in the games themselves, losing out to Portugal's Nelson Évora. He won the 2009 world championships in Berlin with a personal-best outdoor jump of 17.73 meters, and beat that in 2010 with a jump of 17.81 meters to take gold at the European championships.
Scouting report from some guy on the internet: Via user "James W" on Rod 2.0:
Yes sir! That's quite a bulge ... err, jump! ... that you have there!
Scouting report from home country: Roger Black, former British Olympic silver medalist in the 400 meter, called Idowu one of Britain's "five realistic chances of medals, if not gold medals."
Sexy pose threat level:
Previous sexy pose: here.
Olympic archetype: Bode Miller/Allen Iverson
Did you know? Idowu claims that, for much of his career, he's been competing despite fractures in five of six lower vertebrae. Triple jumping goes something like this: sprint, plant, jump, land on the opposite foot from the one you jumped off, jump off that foot, fly about 58 and a half feet, and land in about six inches of sand. That would probably kinda hurt if you had a broken back.
Forecast for 2012: Idowu wasn't too far off the world record—18.29 meters, set by fellow Briton Jonathan Edwards at the 1995 world championships—when he jumped 17.81 meters in 2010. And of course, if he sets the new mark, he's dying his hair gold.
Relevant Bob Costas facial expression: