Mutaz Essa Barshim might have ended 2014 the world’s number one high jumper, but Nick Moroney must be the most durable. We speak to the indefatigable Aussie, who has just celebrated clearing 2.10m or higher for a 25th successive year.

A lot of things happened in 1990. Nelson Mandela was freed from jail after 27 years of incarceration. Germany was officially reunified following the fall of the Berlin wall the previous year. It was also the year that Australian high jumper Nick Moroney, then just an emerging teenage talent, first cleared 2.10m. Remarkably, he has continued to do so every year since.

This year he left it late, reaching the milestone at the New South Wales Relay Championships in Sydney on November 15.

“I’m pretty relieved,” the 42-year-old admits. “I pulled a hamstring back in January and I had only cleared 2.00m in two comps in late [southern hemisphere] summer. I had set the meet in Sydney and another one on December 13 to do it. It was a close shave.”

Moroney was born to jump. His father, Mike, competed in the long jump at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics. After discovering he was better suited to jumping high rather than long, Moroney junior began seriously training for the discipline from the age of 16. 

Nick Moroney ()

Mutual loyalty: Moroney and his coach of 27 years Peter Lawler

It was his good fortune he grew up living in Tamworth (about five hours north of Sydney), the same country town as Peter Lawler, one of Australia’s most innovative and respected coaches. The pair boast an unbroken 27-year coach-athlete relationship; a bond that still holds strong today. Moroney is clear on the Lawler’s positive influence.

“If he wasn’t based out of Tamworth I wouldn’t have had a career in athletics,” Moroney says. “He’s an excellent technical coach who took me from a 1.90m to a 2.20m plus jumper.

“Very early on he had me lifting weights in his garage with an old iron bar and cast iron weights. Many jumpers start to lose their spring in their 30s, but where I’ve been lucky is I’ve always relied on my strength as a jumper and that is still a huge part of my training today.”

Moroney, whose personal best stands at 2.25m, has featured on the international stage. He finished fourth at the 2002 Manchester Commonwealth Games, where he battled a knee injury to clear 2.20m. Four years later he againe cleared 2.20m to place fifth at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne – fittingly at the world famous Melbourne Cricket Ground, 50 years on from his father’s Olympic appearance at the same cavernous venue. 

Nick Moroney ()

Moroney competing at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne in 2006

He scaled back his athletics career after the 2006 Commonwealths to focus on his professional career (he now teaches maths) and family life in Brandy Hill just outside of Newcastle in New South Wales.

But the evergreen athlete could never shake the high jump bug and has continued to impress domestically. It was only when asked that he realised how consistently he had been performing for more than two decades.

“I remember three or four years ago clearing 2.10m at one meet and one of the officials said ‘how many years is it that you’ve now cleared 2.10m?’ I worked it out that at the time it was about 21 years and ever since then it has become a big thing for me.”

These days Moroney restricts his jumping to seven or eight months a year (from August/September through to March), focusing chiefly on strength and conditioning work and plyometrics to maintain his jumping ability. “I’m not going to change my technique much at my age,” he says.

The father-of-three has largely avoided the curse of injury – even the hamstring problem he sustained earlier this year was from water skiing – and today he weighs only a couple of kilograms heavier (around 76kg) than when in his jumping prime. 

Nick Moroney ()

“High jump is still a challenge, quite addictive.”

And Moroney also remains motivated by competition, maintaining his streak and proving a point.

“It is still very satisfying to compete at a reasonable level nationally,” he explains. “The streak also gives me something to aim for. I’m never going to set a personal best again, but I’m proud of the fact people are now starting to follow and talk about the streak. When I was in my 30s lots of people said I was too old and it was time to retire, but I enjoy the fact I am still here proving them wrong.”

It is a point – and a streak – that Moroney hopes he can continue to make for a little while longer.

“At my age I don’t make long term plans,” he adds. “For me, I will continue for as long as my body is in shape and I can continue to be reasonably competitive at national level – around 2.10m.

“I don’t feel 42. I’m still lifting heavy weights in the gym, my plyometrics are still good. I would find it difficult to give up athletics to play basketball or golf or something social. I just wouldn’t attack it in the same way. It is still a challenge, quite addictive.”