Javelin Throw: How to Triumph in the UK
BY BEKAH WALTON
Within recent years, several javelin celebrities have been the talk of the sport.
Neeraj Chopra, Indian Olympic Champion, was the most written-about athlete in 2022, overtaking Usain Bolt. His rivalry with Johannes Vetter has also been discussed avidly, as the German produced the second furthest throw in history in 2020, throwing 97.76m. On the women's side, Maria Andrejczyk jumped to 3rd on the all-time list with a throw of 71.40, becoming only the 5th woman in history to throw over 70m with the new spec javelin.
Yet, javelin is one of the least supported events nationally. Our event was in a Golden Age come the 80s, with Tessa Sanderson and Fatima Whitbread challenging each other domestically and internationally. The years after brought Steve Backley, with Mick Hill and Mark Roberson joining him at major international events. Following these athletes' departure, some depth was lost, but Goldie Sayers carried the baton and won Britain's last major javelin medal in the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. Since Goldie's retirement, interest in the event has been lost, and as much as it hurts to say, even avid athletics fans would struggle to name our best British throwers.
Fortunately, it feels a change of tide is on the horizon...
UP-AND-COMING BRITISH JAVELIN THROWERS
The age group depth is building up significantly and is only gaining momentum. There have been attendees at all three age-group European and World Championships recently, a remarkable feat after a lull period. We are now beginning to see British athletes compete internationally again, and I believe, given time and correct development, javelin throw will soon be a discussed event within the athletics community once more.
WHAT IS THE POWER OF 10?
As athletics fans will know, the best way to follow the British rankings is through The Power of 10 website. Every person who has competed in athletics will have a profile registered, where a detailed list of performances over the years and their respective distances, times or heights are noted. Within this, there are UK rankings for each age group.
Over the years, the event has had some poor credit from reporters, even being dubbed 'the ugly' of the British athletics scene. Unfortunately, all events go through highs and lows, and I think it's important to give credit to the present athletes who are building up the depth of the event again.
TRAINING PROGRAMMES FOR JAVELIN
For junior athletes, the Youth Talent Programme (YTP) and Junior Talent Programme (JTP) are two schemes which support promising individuals in their respective events with talent days. Athletes apply to be part of the cohorts online and follow the application process.
Within recent years, graduates or current members of the schemes have gone on to represent Great Britain at the 2022 European U18s in Jerusalem, the 2022 World Juniors in Cali and the 2021 European U20 and U23 championships in Tallinn. This is a remarkable improvement from recent years when we have had no representatives at these Championships.
The senior representation is also improving, with British athletes qualifying and competing for Home Nations at the 2022 Commonwealth Games and European Championships. This was our first senior representation since the last Commonwealth Games in 2018 and as far back as 2016 for the European Championships. Having this talented cohort is promising for the future of the event.
COACHING IN JAVELIN THROW
Unfortunately, one of the problems causing the lack of depth within our event is the need for specialised coaches. As one of the most technical events of the sport, there are much fewer coaches available. However, we are fortunate to have an excellent javelin community within the UK, and people are willing to support us where they can.
For those struggling to find support from a coach at their local club, I suggest joining either the UK Throws Association or the UK Javelin Association on Facebook. People are happy to help with suggestions on finding a local throws network and a coach that you may not be aware of. This is not an association that requires membership but a community in place to help improve our depth of throws in the UK.
IMPROVING JAVELIN THROW PERFORMANCE
As previously mentioned, The Power of Ten is a powerful website publishing all performance results. But it is easy to get drawn into the ranking systems and obsess with numbers. If you have just started javelin or have been in the event a long time, I want to clarify that the stats do not defy your worth.
Many athletes get hooked on numbers and ranking positions, which can be detrimental to self-esteem and performance. Everyone progresses at their own rate, so please don't be too concerned with whether you have thrown far enough at your age. What is most important is you are happy and consistent with your training; this will bring the results.
JAVELIN COMPETITIONS IN THE UK
We are lucky to hold several specialist throws competitions in the UK. These competitions have a fantastic atmosphere, and it is an excellent opportunity to be in an environment where javelin is the heart and soul of the event. The UK Javelin Festival was run for numerous years but, unfortunately, has missed a couple of years due to COVID and clashed with attendance at the 2022 European Championships.
This year also saw the introduction of the Pathway International, where a talented crop of age group athletes were selected to compete for their home nation at Loughborough University. The competition had a fantastic turnout, with several personal bests on the day and qualifying standards for the world para championships.
MY JOURNEY WITH JAVELIN THROWING
Javelin is an event of skill, power and speed, and it tests its athletes in all areas of athleticism.
I began my javelin journey at 13, starting athletics alongside many other sports, of which my favourite was netball. An early bloomer, I had promising height, competed at Academy level, and felt I was destined to make it into the super league. I began athletics to work on my speed but was encouraged to try javelin by my mum, who knew I was pretty handy at throwing a ball. It just happened that a coach was at the track that evening, and the rest, as they say, is history.
I continued to play netball until I was 18 but specialised entirely in the event at that point. The sport has complimented my athletics in many ways, and I have no regrets about balancing the two sports until university.
MY ADVICE FOR JAVELIN THROWERS IN THE UK
If you dream of becoming a javelin thrower, don't be concerned with specialising in the event too early, as I started young and haven't looked back since!
HELP WITH THROWS EQUIPMENT
If you are still determining which model of javelin you'd like to purchase, you can always contact head throws coach at Loughborough University, David Turner, for advice. You can read more about how to get free, impartial advice from David on choosing the best javelin for your needs here.
Or, you can reach out to me through socials, and I'll do my best to help where I can (@bekahhwaltonn).
ABOUT BEKAH WALTON
Originally a netballer, Bekah quickly discovered a talent for javelin throwing, and hasn't looked back since.
Bekah is a British Champion and now has her eyes set on Commonwealth and Olympic glory!