Cadet Paul Neale of 1116 (Woodley) squadron is jumping for joy after smashing the Air Cadet high jump record at the recent 2012 Inter Region Athletics championship held at RAF Cosford.
Cadet Neale, 15, impressed the crowds with his huge jump of 1.97m which not only broke the previous Air Training Corps record (which had stood for over 30 years) by seven centimetres, it also would have won the RAF Senior Men’s competition held the week before.
Having recorded the highest jump by any 15 year old in a UK event this year, Cadet Neale, quite rightly, received a lot of praise for his amazing efforts.
The Air Cadet’s Chief of Staff, Group Captain John Lawlor, was particularly impressed with Cadet Neale’s maturity. He said “To break a record which has stood for more than 30 years really is a fantastic feat. The crowd at the event were fully behind Paul as he only just missed out on jumping 1.99m – a huge jump for a 15 year old athlete.”
Warrant Officer Dan Twigg, the Squadron Commander of 1116 (Woodley) squadron was also thrilled for Cadet Neale. “Everyone at the squadron is very proud of Neale. It’s a fantastic to have a Corps champion at Woodley. It was an awesome achievement.”
Just to put Neale’s success into perspective a little more, there were plenty of athletes in the London 2012 Games who would have liked to record a jump of 1.97m themselves. More than half of the male decathletes didn’t reach this height and none of the female hepthathletes did. 1.97cm would have been 5th place in the women’s high jump final and just 32cm away from a medal in the men’s Olympic final.
Cadet Neale has been with Woodley squadron for just over two and a half years and was inspired to join by his uncle who is a Wing Commander based at RAF Northolt. However, his athletics career started years earlier.
“I have always really enjoyed sport,” said Cadet Neale “and I started athletics when I was 8 years old. I tried every event to start with but when I was 10 or 11, I realised I was best at high jump, hurdles and javelin so started to concentrate mainly on those but now it’s mostly just high jump for me.”
As a member of Reading Athletics Club, Cadet Neale has a pretty hectic schedule. “I train with Reading two or three times a week and also come to Air Cadets twice a week but I do get Wednesday evenings off! I’m studying for my GCSEs so have to work hard to fit everything in.”
With a previous personal best of 1.93m, Cadet Neale’s jump shows he is certainly capable of delivering excellent results when it really counts. “The conditions at RAF Cosford were perfect and it was really inspiring competing there, said Neale “I felt really good going into the competition and just knew I was going to go well. My first jump was 1.70m and then I kept going up by 5cm in each round. Everything felt perfect.”
“When I hit my personal best, I knew I could just keep going and I’m really pleased with my 1.97m jump. It’s great to get a big personal best in a major competition. I didn’t really believe it at the time but it’s just about sinking in now.”
Cadet Neale’s performance is all the more remarkable when you consider his training this year hasn’t totally gone to plan. “I broke my foot in early January so I’ve not been at my best for half the season. It took around four months of recovery before I could jump again.”
“My family have always been really supportive and Mum and Dad usually come with me to my competitions but they didn’t come to Cosford so I was texting them my results. They really believe in me and, as our Olympic athletes all said, it’s really important to have that support behind you.”
So, should we expect to see Cadet Neale in the headlines in the future? “I can absolutely see myself sticking with athletics. I’m going to keep training and hopefully go to a sporting university. I really enjoyed watching the Olympics, particularly Team GB’s bronze in the men’s high jump, and it was very inspiring. I’ll be aiming for the Olympics in 2020 and perhaps even 2016 too.”
And it doesn’t take a huge leap of imagination to see him being there!