Javelin thrower aims far
Niki Oudenaarden has sights set on breaking 50 metres
By: Jeff Hansen
| Posted: Wednesday, Aug 08, 2012 06:00 am
Javelin thrower Niki Oudenaarden is on the verge of surpassing 50 metres after challenging the distance at three major meets in the outdoor season.
Her best shot at breaking the 50 barrier was the Olympic trials in June at Calgary. The youngest thrower in the final stuck the javelin at 48.90m with the sixth and last attempt to finish fifth overall.
“It was close to my personal best and it did get me back up there ranking-wise, but at the same time I really wished that I was able to get past 50. That’s been my goal all season; get a 50 somewhere but it didn’t seem to happen this year,” said Oudenaarden, 18.
She started aiming beyond 50 after qualifying for the U19 world junior championships with a career-high 49.23m at the Calgary Spring Challenge, breaking the provincial records of 48.72 in U19 and 44.72 in U18.
“Getting past 50 would be a real good mental thing. You would have that mark and the feel of what you did with that throw and be able to remember it. I still remember my 49.23 and exactly what I did and how I did it,” Oudenaarden said. “Once you get the feel for it, everything just kind of clicks and then from there on it’s easier to achieve the distance.”
A knee injury last year forced the U18 national heptathlon champion in 2010 to air out the javelin exclusively and play around with the shot put. In the fall the San Diego State freshman will resume her training in the seven heptathlon events: 100m hurdles, high jump, shot put, 200m, long jump, javelin and 800m.
"Fifty metres is a difficult distance for a lot of people, just because it’s really unusual to get for any person starting out in javelin. You need to have a lot of practice and throw quite a lot,” said the five-foot-10 righty. “It’s also a completely different mental game as well from the heptathlon. It’s a very interesting and demanding event because even though I’ve had a full year to train for it, I still have some of the worst technique that a lot of javelin throwers have ever seen. They all like to make fun of me because they say I throw far but have awful technique.”
At the trials the top four finishers cleared 50, led by Elizabeth Gleadie's winning throw of 60.13m.
“These girls are top of the line. They train every day and twice a day sometimes. They are throwing continuously. I only throw maybe twice a week so the fact that I even made finals – and I’m not really a javelin thrower – was really fun. I definitely wasn’t expecting that,” Oudenaarden said. “It just says that I have another opportunity in case the heptathlon doesn’t work out. I can always go into javelin.”
Last month the Edmonton Capital City Track and Field Club athlete competed for Canada at world juniors in Barcelona, Spain and was unable to advance past the opening round with a mark of 47.35m. Fifty or higher would have done the trick.
“It was not what I was hoping for but it was still a real good experience," Oudenaarden said. “I was a little off but it was really tough competition. The girl who ended up winning [Sofi Flinck of Sweden at 61.40m] threw an eight-metre personal best. Those girls are throwing pretty much what Liz Gleadie throws, so it was pretty spectacular just to watch them.”
The provincial high school female record holder in the junior long jump (5.75m) and the intermediate (42.87m) and senior javelin (43.27m) with the Paul Kane Blues picked up some valuable pointers from her competitors.
“Those girls taught me a lot. They would talk to me in between their throws and just describe their technique to me,” she said. “It was really nice of them because they knew I was a heptathlete. They would say, ‘Come on, you don’t know javelin. We’ll teach you.’”
It was the second international competition of Oudenaarden's career after a knee injury derailed her heptathlon performance at the U17 worlds last year in France.
“It was really fun, especially seeing how it was in the Olympic stadium they used in the past so that was really nice,” she said. “We all pretended that we were at the Olympics because that is happening right now so we all joked around about that. Whenever we would go through the airports we would always wear our Team Canada stuff. Some people would go, ‘Wait, are you guys the Olympic team?’ And we were like, ‘Yes, of course we are.’ We totally weren’t but we told them later.”
Oudenaarden recently attended junior nationals in Winnipeg and finished second in javelin at 47.65m. The winner was Pascale Dumont of Quebec at 47.76m.
The eight-time gold medallist for Paul Kane at high school provincials also placed fifth in shot put at 12.34m.
“Javelin was actually quite disappointing at this meet,” she said. “The shot put I did for fun.”
Oudenaarden described the summer meet season as a humbling learning experience.
“You always want to have your perfect meet and make that cut-off for the finals but sometimes it just doesn’t happen. You have to accept that and learn from it.”