THE secret to performing well, believes Allan Smith, is to have no fear. The high jumper goes into this weekend’s European Indoor Championships knowing that he has a realistic chance of winning a medal but to do that, he will have to perform to his very best. And to do that, he must not be scared of any of his competitors. “I think this Europeans will be different for me compared to previous championships – I’ve been on the circuit for a while and I’m competing against these guys on a regular basis now,” the 24-year-old said. “It’s about not being scared of anyone in the field because that makes a massive difference. The majority of the guys who are above me in the rankings I’ve beaten indoors already so that will be a big factor.”

Smith is one of six Scots who have travelled to Belgrade as part of the British team, his selection coming in the wake of his third British Indoor title last month. That victory came as a result of a relatively modest – by Smith’s standards- jump of 2.25 metres but despite falling four centimetres short of his personal best, he is confident that he is on the cusp of a very good performance. “This season has been building up well and I’m just waiting for one big jump to come out,” he said. “This year, the technical side of my jumps has improved a lot – each competition it’s got better and better but I just haven’t got over that higher bar yet, so if it’s going to come, hopefully it happens at the Europeans.”

It is though, all in the head when it comes to putting everything together on the day. Smith admits that he can be guilty of trying that bit too hard when the bar edges towards 2.30m and knows if he is to leave the Serbian capital this weekend with a medal, he needs to get the mental side of things right. “In the past, when the bar goes up I’ve been known to try harder and if you do that, it totally messes up your technique,” he said. “So it’s all about control – controlling the run-up and then going hard on the last four strides. If I can do that then I feel like a PB is a realistic aim because at the Grand Prix in Birmingham two weeks ago, I cleared 2.20 by more than I ever have – it was easily worth 2.30 – but I just didn’t get it right when the bar went up. This weekend, if I can clear 2.28 I don’t see any reason why I can’t be within reach of the top three and then past that, it’s just whoever jumps best on the day.”

Smith’s positive mindset is as a result of a new winter training regime. After being removed from Lottery funding late last year, he returned to Edinburgh from his base south of the border and embarked on a new and improved strength and conditioning programme, the benefits of which he believes he is already reaping. While Smith denies that he has any desire to prove a point to anyone following his funding withdrawal, he does concede that it has given him an extra little push to succeed. “It has increased my motivation because I’ve no longer got that cushion of having the support there,” he said. “It really doesn’t change anything for me- I’m still going to continue training as I am but it does add some extra motivation. I know that people have succeeded without Lottery support in the past and so the main thing is to not worry about it and to just try to jump well. And if I do that, the funding will look after itself.”

This weekend’s European Indoor Championships are just the start of a massive season for Smith. Commonwealth Games qualification is already underway and when the outdoor season begins, the British Championships will have extra significance as they double up as the trials for the World Championships which take place in London in August. With four high jumpers fighting for three spots in the British team though, Smith knows that he will have to be at his best but his confidence that he is a big-time performer gives him some comfort. “It’s very competitive in Britain at the moment so it’s not easy to make the team,” he admits. “But I feel like I thrive on a higher level of competition – being out there fighting for a medal, I think it does bring out the best in me. When I’m competing for a medal, I know what it takes – it’s about getting the mentality right, not being scared of anyone and just going for it.”