He's gone from chasing NCAA points to chasing world records in the high jump battle of the century*. We speak to Canada's world and Olympic bronze medallist Derek Drouin, 24, about how his NCAA career (he won two outdoor and three indoor titles) helped him become a pro superstar.
1. Getting your game face on
“First and foremost the NCAA taught me how to compete. Aged just 18 and 19, it throws you into that world. You are up against world-class athletes and I'm very thankful for that.
“It stood me in good stead for the rest of my career and prepared me more than anything for the demands of the Olympics and world championships.
“The first year I won at the NCAA championships I had a pretty good winning height, but the key for me was clearing heights with my first attempt. That showed me how important it was to be consistent and make those first attempt clearances. That has really paid dividends throughout my career.”
2. Making friends
“What I really learned from the NCAAs – and what I've learned in my brief time in the sport as a pro – is to have fun with the sport and get to know the other athletes. I made friends with the other athletes competing in college track and field. This is important because athletics is a lonely world.
“I always got on with my teammates at Indiana University, and I'm big friends with my fellow Canadian high jumper Mike Mason.”
Five on it: Drouin won five NCAA titles for Indiana University.
3. Doing it for team
“Something I'm really going to miss is the team aspect of the sport. In the NCAA's I loved that and I really thrived off it. I always enjoyed that team element.
“It was something that helped drive me. I felt it was my duty to score points for the team and that is another reason why I love doing so many different events [Drouin trains as a multi-eventer and also competes as a sprint hurdler], because it gave me the chance to help the team out so much.
“My favourite part was watching the distance runners, who would double and triple in events and run so many miles just for the purpose of helping the team.”
*High jump battle of the century
At the start of the 2013 season, just seven men had cleared 2.40m outdoor in high jump history – something that Mutaz Barshim, Bohdan Bondarenko, Ivan Ukhov and Derek Drouin have all done in the past six weeks. Javier Sotomayor's 25-year-old world record of 2.45m finally looks vulnerable, and high jump is proving to be THE track and field event to watch this season.