Mauro da Silva in the long jump at the 2014 IAAF World Indoor Championships in Sopot (© Getty Images)
One man notably absent from the second half of the international athletics circuit during the summer was the effervescent and affable Brazilian long jumper Mauro Vinicius da Silva, often known locally by his nickname Duda.
The 2012 and 2014 world indoor champion suffered left knee problems during the early months of the summer and decided to call a halt to his campaign after finishing a disappointing second at the South American Championships back in June.
However, after arthroscopic surgery in August to clean out some internal debris within the joint, Da Silva has now been back in training for a month and is determined to put up a defence of his title at the IAAF World Indoor Championships Portland 2016.
“It was frustrating to be out of the Pan (American Games in Toronto) and the Worlds (in Beijing) this summer," Da Silva recently told local reporters. "It was a particular disappointment. Of course, the injury was out of my control, these things sometimes happen, but it was still very frustrating.
"Nevertheless, now I'm training at 100 per cent of my ability. I no longer feel any pain. The pre-season is progressing the way I want.
"Luckily, I have a very good genes and do not gain weight even when I’m standing still, although I did end up losing some muscle mass. But I looked after my diet and ate well during the time I was out of action," added the jumper, who is 1.83m tall and currently tips the scales at 69kg.
The big target for him next year is, of course, the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
He will be hoping that competing in front of his home crowd does for him what the packed audience in London’s Olympic Stadium did for his possible Portland rival and world champion Greg Rutherford in 2012.
Da Silva finished down in seventh place on that occasion, which was something of a disaappointment considering that he led the qualifying competition with a jump of 8.11m, just one centimetre short of the distance USA’s Will Claye needed for the bronze medal in the final.
Relaxed about Rio
“I’m not worried about the fact that I don’t have the qualifying distance (8.15m) yet. In fact, next year I think I could be in shape to beat my personal best of 8.31m. And if I do that at the Olympics then I could get on the podium.
"I'm working to improve my speed and explosiveness," he added.
Da Silva anticipates a return to competition in January, although no date has yet been set, and a key checkpoint on the road to Rio will be the IAAF World Indoor Championships Portland 2016.
However, unlike at the IAAF World Championships, its indoor equivalent offers no wildcard for the immediate previous champions to defend their titles and Da Silva still needs to get the qualification distance of 8.18m.
"Even with so little time left to get this mark, I am sure I will be at the World Indoors," said a confident Da Silva, who is aiming to become the only other three-time world indoor winner after the five consecutive titles won by Cuban great Ivan Pedroso between 1993 and 2001.
“The one advantage I have now is that no one expects me to do well. I’m not top of the pile any more. When you are a favourite or top of the rankings, the pressure can build up. That’s what happened to me in London when everyone expected me to get a medal.
“In London, Greg did everything right and got a big jump in the second round with his 8.21m, which was eventually the winning jump. I know people have said that such a short distance shouldn’t have won the Olympics but getting a solid jump like that and then letting everyone chase it is far better than having a massive foul, which is what I had. A TV reply showed that one of my (four) fouls would have been 8.42m if it had been valid.”
“In 2013, I did my personal best of 8.31m (on home soil in Sao Paolo), I remember how I trained, how I prepared so this year I’ve reverted to training like I did that year. The world indoors is important to me, not just because I am the defending champion but, from an athletics perspective, it is the only major championship on the calendar before the Olympics.”
Da Silva caused a surprise in 2012 when he took his first world indoor title and, to some extent, again in March 2014 when he successfully defended it. “People said they couldn’t believe somebody with my physique could win a world title, they said I looked more like a 10,000m runner,” he joked. So don’t be surprised if he can put his woes of the last six months behind him and be a medal contender in Portland.
Phil Minshull for the IAAF