High jumper Mason comes up just shy of podium at Olympics

When Ziggy Szelagowicz turned on the TV on Tuesday and saw rain at London's Olympic Stadium, he knew Mike Mason would be just fine.

Mike Mason

Mike Mason

When Ziggy Szelagowicz turned on the TV on Tuesday morning and saw it was raining at London’s Olympic Stadium, he knew Mike Mason would be just fine.

Szelagowicz, a power/strength coach with Abbotsford’s Valley Royals track and field club, put his longtime high-jump pupil through his paces outdoors at Rotary Stadium all winter long – regardless of the weather.

“We were jumping outdoors with the snow coming down,” Szelagowicz said with a chuckle. “An hour or two before a workout, I’d shovel the runway. I wouldn’t allow him to do the physical work. I wanted to see him jumping.

“I said, ‘Mike, London is a tricky place. If there’s rain or bad weather, you’ll know how you’re supposed to feel.'”

Mason’s all-weather workouts very nearly paid off with an Olympic medal. He was one of six high jumpers to finish with a best height of 2.29 metres, but three of those athletes – Canada’s Derek Drouin, Qatar’s Mutaz Essa Barshim and Great Britain’s Robert Grabarz – cleared it on their first attempt. They shared the bronze medal, while Mason, who needed three tries to clear 2.29m, finished in eighth place.

Mason had some good cracks at 2.33m, but he clipped the bar with his heels on two occasions.

“His first two attempts were so close, unbelievably close,” Szelagowicz said of Mason. “The third attempt, he went too aggressive. He was too close, and he had no chance going up. But the first two attempts were almost perfect. Only the heels needed correction … the body was over on two attempts.

“It was an outstanding performance, with this rain and this weather.”

The Mason-Szelagowicz partnership dates back a decade, when the 15-year-old youngster began riding the ferry across from Nanoose Bay to train with the Royals coach in Abbotsford.

The two parted ways when the coach left for a four-year stint at Trinity University in San Antonio in 2003. Mason, meanwhile, won the 2004 world junior title and represented Canada at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, but a nagging left ankle injury derailed his progress. He had surgery to remove a bone chip, but the pain lingered.

Mason moved to Abbotsford last year to train under Szelagowicz once again, and he returned to form, clearing a personal best 2.31m at a meet in Guadeloupe in May.

Szelagowicz wasn’t on the Canadian Olympic coaching staff, but he connected with Mason in London via Skype every day.

“I told him, ‘You have nothing to lose – you have to have big fun with the jumping,'” Szelagowicz said.

Mason did, and now he’s carved out a place among the world’s elite high jumpers. He’s been invited to participate in the Diamond League meets in Europe after the Olympics.

“I’m very happy with him, very happy,” Szelagowicz said. “That was an unbelievable experience for him, and he was so close. I’m sure he’s very happy.”

Just Posted

An apartment building and townhouse project has been proposed at 2236 McCallum Rd. in Abbotsford. The development was given third reading by city council on June 14. (City of Abbotsford)
Apartment-and-townhouse project planned on McCallum Road in Abbotsford

Development across from old hospital site consists of 174 suites and 10 townhouses

Adam Hobbs went missing from a Langley work site on Monday, June 14 and may have gone to Vancouver. (Special to the Langley Advance Times)
Family, RCMP seek Abbotsford man missing from Langley job site

Adam Hobbs lives in Abbotsford and is a minor hockey referee

Police were on scene Monday afternoon (June 14) in the area of George Ferguson Way and Ware Street. (John Morrow/Abbotsford News)
Police called out after reports of possible home invasion in Abbotsford

Incident on Monday afternoon at George Ferugson Way and Ware Street

Migrating sockeye in the Fraser River August 7, 2007. (Fisheries and Oceans Canada)
First Nations, commercial, and recreational harvesters join forces to save Fraser River fish

‘We have to work together to rebuild these stocks while there is still time,’ says delegate

The Vancouver Canucks have polled season ticket holders on team name options for the new Abbotsford AHL team.
Vancouver Canucks poll season tickets holders on Abbotsford AHL team name

List asks fans to rank three out of 10 options, also if Abbotsford or Fraser Valley should be used

People watch a car burn during a riot following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver, B.C., in this June 15, 2011 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Howe
10 years ago: Where were you during the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots?

Smashed-in storefronts, looting, garbage can fires and overturned cars some of the damage remembered today

(Black Press Media file)
Dirty money: Canadian currency the most germ-filled in the world, survey suggests

Canadian plastic currency was found to contain 209 bacterial cultures

(pixabay file shot)
B.C. ombudsperson labels youth confinement in jail ‘unsafe,’ calls for changes

Review states a maximum of 22 hours for youth, aged 12 from to 17, to be placed in solitary

Eleonore Alamillo-Laberge, 6, reads a book in Ottawa on Monday, June 12, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Parents will need to fight ‘COVID learning slump’ over summer: B.C. literacy experts

Parents who play an active role in educating their children this summer can reverse the slump by nearly 80%, says Janet Mort

The border crossing on Highway 11 in Abbotsford heading south (file)
Western premiers call for clarity, timelines on international travel, reopening rules

Trudeau has called Thursday meeting, premiers say they expect to leave that meeting with a plan

The B.C. government’s vaccine booking website is busy processing second-dose appointments, with more than 76 per cent of adults having received a first dose. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations stable for Tuesday

108 new confirmed cases, 139 in hospital, 39 in intensive care

A worker, at left, tends to a customer at a cosmetics shop amid the COVID-19 pandemic Thursday, May 20, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Half of cosmetics sold in Canada, U.S. contain toxic chemicals: study

Researchers found that 56% of foundations and eye products contain high levels of fluorine

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Most Read