Cape Town – In what is yet another coup for the 2018 Athletix Grand Prix Series, Kenya’s Julius Yego – world javelin champion (2015) and Olympic Games silver medallist (2016) – has been added to the growing list of global superstars who will be competing on South African soil.
Yego has confirmed his attendance at the third and final Athletix Grand Prix Meeting that will take place at the Dal Josaphat Stadium in Paarl next month (Thursday, March 22).
“We are used to competing at big meetings in Europe, the States and Asia so when my agent (Jukka Härkönen) informed me of the meeting in Paarl, I immediately jumped at the chance. To be able to compete in South Africa, on the African continent, is important to me as it helps in growing our sport,” said Yego.
Indeed, after Yego’s World Championship success in 2015 – when he won the world title with a throw of 92.72m – and the silver medal in Rio at the Olympic Games in 2016, he inspired a new generation of javelin throwers in Kenya.
“Winning the world title and Olympic silver has seen a bigger interest in javelin throwing in Kenya. We are limited with resources, but more and more kids are now attempting their hand at the javelin. We are known globally as middle and long-distance champions, but with my medals and the two 400m hurdlers (Nicholas Bett and Boniface Mucheru), youngsters are beginning to realise that not everyone is cut out to be a long-distance athlete and that they can also make an impact on the world stage in other athletics disciplines.”
Yego shot to fame when it was discovered that he had used YouTube to coach himself in the early stages of his career. “I saw Andreas Thorkildsen and Jan Zelezny on YouTube throwing the javelin. I am a big guy, not cut out to be a long-distance runner, so when I saw them throw, it inspired me.”
Zelezny holds the world record of 98.48m and is a three-time World Championship and Olympic Games gold medallist, while Thorkildsen has twice won Olympic gold.
It was Yego’s win at the All-Africa Games in Maputo in 2011 that caught the eye of Finnish athlete manager, Jukka Härkönen, who arranged for the Kenyan to attend the IAAF accredited training centre in Kuortane, Finland which turned him into the global superstar he now is.
“My technique was very raw. You cannot learn technique in such a technical event on YouTube. You need someone to watch you and correct what you are doing. So the two months that I spent in Finland made a big difference to my career.”
So much so, that he improved his best from 78.34m of 2011 to 81.81m at the London Olympics in 2012. Three years later he won the world title with the fifth best throw in history – 92.72m.
Yego had a difficult 2017, struggling with injury, but added: “I am now healthy and injury free, so I am excited for what 2018 may hold and 2018 starts on March 22 in Paarl.”