Brandon Starc is Australia's best high jumper and he's off to the Rio Olympics. That's the first thing you need to know.
The second thing you need to know is that Starc currently wears what one athletics official calls "a big dirty mo". This is more important than you think. The last time an Australian high jumper won an Olympic medal, he had the ugliest mullet you ever saw. His name is Tim Forsyth and he won bronze at Barcelona in 1992. Here's his 2.34m medal-winning leap.
And here's Brandon Starc jumping his personal best of 2.31m at the 2015 world championships in Beijing. Phew, just made it.
We caught up with Brandon this week as his Rio selection was made official. We didn't talk about the fact that YES, HE HAS THE SAME NAME AS A GAME OF THRONES CHARACTER. We did, however, talk about the other thing he always gets asked, which is what it's like being the 22-year-old little brother of Australian cricketer Mitchell Starc.
Ant: Hi Brandon. We ask every sportsperson this. Who would win a fight between a kangaroo and an emu?
Brandon: A kangaroo. I’ve seen videos, not of kangaroos versus emus but kangaroos versus kangaroos. They’re fierce.
Ant: You don't think maybe the emu could do something to the kangaroo?
Brandon: Besides pecking it and running away? No. Besides the beak, the emu has nothing.
Ant: There's a famous sledge by the former cricketer Mark Waugh, who as you know is Steve’s brother. Anyway an England player came out to bat and Waugh said “you’re too crap to play for England”. And the England guy replied “at least I’m the best player in my family”!
Ant: Yeah, he got him pretty good. Anyway you can see where this is going. Are you the best sportsman in your family?
Brandon: I’ll give it to Mitchell.
Ant: That’s very magnanimous of you.
Brandon: I look up to him, he’s achieved a lot.
Ant: Do you actually physically look up to him? He's almost two metres tall.
Brandon: Yeah I do. I only come up to his eyes.
Ant: Hang on, so how come he’s the cricketer and you’re the high jumper?
Brandon: I don’t know. Well, he was a little chubby when he was younger. We all did athletics when we were kids. I just don't think his interest was as high as cricket.
Ant: You jumped 2.31 last year. You're off to the Olympics now where a jump in the high two-thirties is usually required to win. Can you make a few of the fancied contenders worried?
Brandon: Well it’s hard to say. London was won in 2.35. Moscow World Championships [in 2013] was won in 2.40, Beijing was won in 2.34. There are so many variables. If I jump 2.30, 2.32, 2.33, then the others might start to worry a bit. I just want to put myself in that position.
Ant: High jumping is this ridiculously complicated series of movements where so much has to go right, isn't it.
Brandon: Oh absolutely. There’s the run-up, and for me there are three or four parts to the run-up, then there’s the take off, then there's going over the bar. There are so many little bits that go into it. You need rhythm, position, you have to try to get enough space. But that's what you do in training. You try to perfect what you’re doing.
Ant: Do you talk to the bar? Do you go 'I’m going to get over you, bar!'?
Brandon: No but there’s an American athlete who just won a medal at the world indoor championships. He talks to the bar. His names’s Erik Kynard and every time he touches the bar he has a talk to it. If he hits it and it comes off he throws it down. It’s a battle between him and the bar.
Ant: Do people think he’s mad?
Brandon: I don't know what people think but I can see where he’s going. In a way it is us against the bar. You’ve got to get over the bar. You're competing against others but you just have to get over the bar. That’s pretty much what you have to do.
Ant: Do you find yourself inadvertently using high jump terminology like 'raise the bar' in general life?
Brandon: Yeah, I tend to use that one quite a lot. I also say 'get over it'.
Ant: And do you ever get over it? Not the bar but high jumping itself?
Brandon: No, my coach Alex Stewart varies things up bit. It’s always fun, I look forward to training. There's always something going on.
Ant: What do you do when you’re not high jumping?
Brandon: At the moment I’m trying to get into a bit of photography, I’m kind of into landcapes. I collect sneakers too and take photos of sneakers.
Ant: You take photos of sneakers.
Brandon: Yeah, I’ve got an Instagram page all about sneakers.
(And here's some of Brandon's beautiful work!)
Ant: Hey, you should meet Josh Childress. He's a basketball player I interviewed earlier this year who owns like 800 pairs of sneakers. He once built, and sat on, a throne out of his own sneaker boxes.
Brandon: Wow, that’s cool. I’m not quite in that league. Athletics doesn’t have that much money.
Ant: So how many pairs do you have?
Brandon: 36-ish, and then some other ones that I train in.
Ant: Do you find yourself sussing out other people’s shoes a bit?
Brandon: Absolutely. All the time.
Ant: OK, here are my shoes. They're blue. Is that cool or embarrassing? Is it all right to have blue in a dress shoe? They’re not too ten pin bowlingy?
Brandon: No I like them.
Ant: Phew. I pass.
Brandon: Though obviously if they had an ASICS sign on them they'd be 10 out of 10.
Ant: Is that a sponsor?
Ant: Well since you've been such a good sport we'll give them a big gratuitous plug. Thanks for speaking to The Huffington Post Australia Brandon, and good luck in Rio.
Brandon: Cheers Ant.Suggest a correction