No-one was more surprised than Mitchell Watt when the world

championships bronze medal was draped around his neck two years ago in


How times have changed.

The former schoolboy rugby

union star, who spent five years away from track and field before being

coaxed back in 2008, is the red-hot favourite to win gold in the long

jump at the world titles starting in Daegu on Saturday.

It's an

expectation that now sits comfortably with Watt, who owns the top four

jumps in the world this year, including a huge leap of 8.54m in

Stockholm which bettered the national record set by silver medallist Jai

Taurima at the Sydney Olympics.

"In 2009 I was looking at these guys who used to jump 8.20m every week and I was like 'I don't know how they do it'," said Watt.

"Now, I am pretty much doing 8.30s and 8.40s each time I compete.


Berlin I remember doing media beforehand and there was talk of a medal

and I just thought you guys were joking – I was honestly not expecting

to get a medal there.

"It's definitely a lot different this time around.

"I have said it a few times but I would be disappointed if I don't end up with the gold.

"That's going to put a bit of extra pressure on me saying that but, I mean, it's the truth."

Watt got his 2011 campaign off to a flying start with a huge winning jump of 8.44m at the Australian trials in April.

He jumped the same distance in Shanghai in May, followed by the record-breaking effort of 8.54m in Stockholm.


Queenslander rounded off his European campaign perfectly with victory

at the London Diamond League meet early this month with 8.45m.


high performance manager Eric Hollingsworth reckons Watt probably

soared 8.80m at Crystal Palace, as he planted his foot well before the

take-off board.

After having some trouble with a bruised heel

earlier in the year, Watt and his coach Gary Bourne have taken a relaxed

attitude to training since arriving in Daegu.

He hasn't been doing any jump sessions, preferring to focus on speed work and some weights training.

"My jump is pretty much all speed and strength anyway," said the 23-year-old.


long as I am fast and I have got the power there – I'm not all about

technique – so if I can get down that runway fast enough, I'll be fine."

Watt has singled out Panama's reigning Olympic champion Irving Saladino as his biggest challenger for the gold medal.


Dwight Phillips – who won the third of his world titles two years in

Berlin – is a wildcard, having only jumped sparingly in 2011.


there's multi-talented Zimbabwean Ngonidzashe Makusha, who became only

the fourth man ever to do the 100m-long jump double at the US college

championships this year, joining the likes of Carl Lewis and Jesse


Watt's countryman Fabrice Lapierre has yet to go near

matching the heights of 2010, when he won gold at the world indoors and

the Commonwealth Games – a meet Watt missed due to injury.

Lapierre's best jump of the year is a modest 8.02m – 38cm shy of his PB.

Australia will also be represented in the long jump in Daegu by 2006 world junior champion Robbie Crowther.

The qualifying round is on September 1, with the final scheduled for the following day.