Not enough in London

Qualifying round of the London World Championships just finished up and the results are in. It was the hardest final in Championship history to make, and sadly, I fell short once again.

It was an amazing day at the London Stratford Stadium. Last time I was here was in 2012 at the Olympic Games. I was recovering from a knee injury, and only managed to throw 75.76 meters (248-7).

This year was a chance at redemption. Redemption from the London 2012 Olympics not going how I wanted, as well as redemption from not making the final at the Rio Olympic Games just last year.

Everything was going according to plan. Every day of training I was getting healthier, stronger, and more confident in my abilities.

“If you fail to plan, then you plan for failure” – Benjamin Franklin

I did my pre-competition workout at the stadium the day before the meet. It was pouring down rain and I had zero motivation to be there. Nothing I hate more than soggy shoes and cold, wet clothes. But I was there and I was grinding away.

Soon, my resentment for being in the rain started to fade away and it was replaced with excitement coursing through my veins.

I trained at the warm up track next to the stadium and could hear the crowd of 60,000 fans roar with excitement. The rain stopped bothering me, and I had one of the most motivating training sessions of the year.

Team USA shot putter Ryan Whiting posted on his Instagram what it feels like to be in peak performance. He said “it feels like by body is buzzing, I feel like I could grab the steering wheel with one hand and tear the steering column right out of the car.” Well that’s what I was feeling like. And I was excited for tomorrow’s competition!

I slept in until 1:00 pm the next day, trying to get as much rest as possible. It also meant waiting around for an 8:35 pm competition start time wouldn’t be so stressful.

I took two buses and arrived at the long throws warm up area a few miles away from the Olympic Stadium.

After a few minutes of warming up most of the competition had arrived. It was fun to watch different athletes warm up for the biggest meet of their year.

For the Olympic Champion, Thomas Rohler of Germany, this was going to be easy part of the World Championships; just qualify for finals. He told me it’s just another training session. But for me, in order to make finals I needed to throw one of the best throws of my life. It wasn’t something I could take so lightly.

Grass throwers were going great. I was alone, able to focus on all my technical cues, and really nail them down.

I moved to the runway to fine tune some things. It’s always great to get in a couple throws on the runway before our long breaks in the call room.

After about eight throws on the runway I was completely satisfied. We jumped on the bus and headed back to the stadium.

After a short ride back to the stadium, and 10 minutes of staying active at the warm up track, our call room was open.

We waited there for 15 minutes while everyone’s bags were searched for electronics, spikes and jerseys were checked, and any oversized logos were covered, before we were finally escorted to the track.

The stadium was more beautiful than I remembered in 2012. It was bright and energetic. I was super excited to throw, and I knew I could hit the auto qualifier of 83 meters (272-4).

If you hit the auto qualifier at any time in the competition you are escorted off the field and automatically make the final. Normally three or four athletes will hit the auto qualifier (sometimes known as big Q), and the top 12 athletes make the final.  

Historically it takes about 80.85 meters (265-3) to place in the top 12 and make the final. This year is the best year, maybe ever, for men’s javelin, so I knew it would take more. I told myself, hit the auto qualifier to guarantee you make finals.

The warm ups are strict; you throw in order (16 athletes in our flight) and they are scheduled to give you two throws on the runway.

I was throwing 65-70m from short approach in warm ups, which is good for me. I am a gamer; I expect 10-20m jump when I go from full in a competition.

I think we had extra time or something, because I was able to take 3 or 4 throws on the runway, plus 3 or 4 run throughs (no throw), and we still had 7 minutes until the competition started.

First throw I hit it solid. I was fast, my impulse (penultimate step) was low, and my arm was back. But the nose was up high, and the javelins stalled out at 77.51 meters (254-4).

It was an ok start, but it was nowhere near close enough to make finals.

Rumor had it that five athletes hit the auto qualifier in the first flight. Sixth place was 82.46m and it might take that or more to make the final!

After the first round of my flight, five more men hit the automatic qualifier. It was unreal. Crazy part was the Olympic Champion Thomas Rohler had a poor opening mark and didn’t hit the auto qualifier. He would surely throw it too in the following rounds. That meant at least 11 athletes would have the auto by the end of this competition!

Round two things got worse for me. My upper body was all over the place, and not stacked like I should have been. I was balancing ever so close near the foul line, and I saw the javelin fly negative (downward angle) to its premature death of 75.79m.

By this time in the competition I was hoping to already have the auto qualifier. I wanted to be on the bus back home, with my first task at hand complete. But I was still here. Still in it.

As long as there is air in my lungs, and blood in my veins I will fight.

Two more Germans hit the auto qualifier in the second round, which made it twelve athletes to auto qualify, with one round still left in the competition. You could throw 82.99 meters and still not qualify. But if you can hit the 83+ they have to take you to the final. It’s top 12 if there are not enough qualifiers, but there can always be more. It just has never happened!

I realized this was it. You don’t want to leave this competition feeling like you could have done more, so you have to just go for it. Give it everything you got. No fear. No regrets. That is how I have thrown my entire career and I am not changing it now.

My major focus was staying closed with my left shoulder and keeping the tip of my javelin under control. I barreled down the runway as fast as I could. I launched the javelin into the air and it clearly had the best attack angle of the night.

It wasn’t perfect, but I didn’t need perfect. I feel like I have 85+ meter power, so I don’t NEED a perfect flight. I just need 83 meters.

The javelin landed and the crowd didn’t answer in applause, like they had done for the other auto qualifiers. I knew my World Championships were over. No finals for me. No redemption.

The reader board read 79.71 meters (261-6), ninth place in my flight. All of the eight competitors above me hit the automatic qualifier.

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It was the hardest final in Championship history (Worlds or Olympics) to make. Thirteenth place was 83.49m; a throw that would have placed third in the qualifying round of the 2012 Olympic Games!

I felt defeated, frustrated, and robbed.

Two more throws and I know I could have hit the auto qualifier. I know I have the ability. I know I am ready for something big. But not today, and not in the finals of the World Championships either.

Good news is, I placed higher at this World Championships than I did at the Rio Olympics. I threw farther than I did five years ago (the last time I was in London). And I have more meets to come this year in search of redemption and that perfect throw.

So I hold my head high. Proud of what I have done and how I have represented my country.

You haven’t heard the last of me.

 

Results of the World Championships Men’s Javelin Qualifying Rounds

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