THE decision by UK Athletics to retain Tom Gale on the Olympic Podium Potential funding programme has given the Trowbridge high jumper a huge boost, writes KEVIN FAHEY.

By his own admission, Gale didn’t enjoy the same level of success this past summer that he enjoyed in 2017 when he burst onto the international scene with a series of outstanding performances.

An ankle injury brought his season to a premature end, but what should not be forgotten is that Gale made his senior England debut at the Commonwealth Games in Australia, finishing ninth, won the England U23 title, and on his final appearance of the summer, placed fourth in the British Senior Championships with a season’s best of 2.23m.

That may seem below-par compared to the amazing 2.30m Gale achieved in 2017, but the UK Athletics chiefs know that Gale’s path forwards is bound to be bumpy so have stuck to their belief that the 19-year-old is a future star of the sport.

“It is awesome news and I am grateful to be back on the programme,” said Gale.

“I did not have a great summer compared to last year, but they obviously believe I have that potential to achieve and to get their support again for another year is brilliant.

“It helps to keep me motivated because I know where I am heading and what I need to do.

“Also, over the past few months, I have been having regular tests at Loughborough University to monitor my recovery from the ankle injury and see the benefits of my current training and rehab plan.

“Training has been going really well and I am feeling a lot stronger than at this time last year. Hopefully, it won’t be long before I can get back to my best again.”

Gale competed in just 13 competitions in 2018 compared to 23 in 2017 as the ankle injury took its toll, but he still finishes the year fifth in the UK rankings – he was second in 2017 – and top in the U23 age group.

“I was not so much disappointed with the summer, but more frustrated as I felt there was more to come, but the ankle just wasn’t right and I had to stop,” added Gale.

“But that has allowed me the time to not only recover physically, but also mentally, and I am in a good place now. I have learned a lot more about my body and what I need to do to be able to perform to my best.

“I am definitely looking forward to the new season.”

Gale has always enjoyed the indoor campaign and has pencilled in the Hustopec Classic in the Czech Republic at the end of January as his opening competition of 2019, which will be the first step on what Gale hopes will end with success at the European U23 Championships in Sweden.

“The Euros are the big target and I’ll be looking to show some progression in 2019,” said Gale.

Gale is the only West Country athlete to receive funding from the OPP funding scheme, but fellow Trowbridge athlete Danny Talbot, who did not compete in 2018 due to injury, again retains his financial support as part of the Olympic Relays funding programme.