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02 Sep 2007 09:46
Young Boland javelin thrower Robert Oosthuizen will have the time of his life in Sunday’s javelin final at the 11th World Athletics Championships in Osaka. It took only two throws for the 20-year-old to secure a place alongside the big guns he used to watch on television with his father.
To Oosthuizen the big guns were American Breaux Greer, Norwegian Andreas Thorklidsen and Finland’s Tero Pitkamaki, all of whom struggled to qualify.
“We used to sit and wonder what it would be like. Now I’m here—it’s a dream come true,” enthused Oosthuizen.
Father Johan not only doubles as his coach, but is still the ninth all-time-best South African javelin thrower, enjoying the peak of his career when Robert was three years old. Robert has exceeded his father’s best of 80,92m many times and set the fifth-best distance of 83,07 last year in Beijing.
Olympic champion Thorklidsen goes into the competition as favourite having won last year’s European Championship and silver behind Estonian Andrus Varnik, who failed to qualify. Both Pitkamaki and Greer have thrown more than 90m this year, with the American currently the world leader on 91,29m.
On the other hand it is Pitkamaki, now a full-time thrower, who has dominated all the big meetings this year—except in Rome, where a missed throw speared long-jumper Salim Sdiri sitting outside the sector: an upsetting experience for the Finn.
As Marius Corbett proved in winning gold in the 1998 Kuala Lumpur Commonwealth Games, it takes just one big throw, or an external factor, to upset statistics. One such factor in Osaka is the run-up surface, which is so much faster than other tracks that it’s knocked normal approach settings out of kilter. As the qualifiers proved, this can turn the world’s best into also-rans.—Sapa
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