The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION
Canadian javelin thrower Scott Russell has taken second chance a long way
LAWRENCE, Kan. - Scott Russell was done throwing the javelin. He had missed out on his lifelong goal of competing in the Olympics - twice. Financial support from the Canadian government was gone. Couldn't even make the national team.
There was no reason to keep going. One throw - with help from an out-of-nowhere donation - changed everything.
Given a second chance even he didn't think he deserved, Russell made the most of it, fighting through a litany of injuries to realize his dream of making it to the Olympics.
"I didn't do it for me," Russell said Friday. "Somebody other than myself believed I had something in there that at the time I didn't think I had. It kind of saved my career."
Russell of Windsor, Ont., has never had a problem at the Kansas Relays. He was a two-time national champion and six-time All-American at the University of Kansas, and entered this year's meet having won the javelin five of the previous six years, six times overall.
Still rusty from the off-season, Russell had no trouble making it seven Kansas Relays titles, throwing 224 metres, 10.16 centimetres on his third throw of the finals, beating runner-up John Hetzendorf by three metres.
"I felt rusty," Russell said. "It was the first meet of the year and usually I'm ready to go, but I've just had injuries that carried over from last year. Despite the injuries, I felt good. I don't feel pain, so: successful."
One moment in 2005 made it possible for Russell to even be here.
He had just failed to make the Canadian national team and was ready to hang up his javelin. Russell had already missed on two chances to make the Olympics after failing to make a qualifying throw for Sydney and Athens, and figured there was no reason to keep fighting uphill. Time to get a job, he figured.
Not so fast.
A couple who had been following his progress offered to pay Russell's expenses for one more meet, giving him US$2,500 for one final chance to keep his career going. He figured why not, what did he have to lose.
Next meet, in Ottawa, Russell set a Canadian record of 276-11 - on his first throw.
His career rekindled, Russell pushed himself like never before, earning a trip to the 2008 Beijing Games. He finished 10th, thanks in part to a bum knee that buckled on the final throw, and now has his sights set on the 2012 London Games.
"I was ready to go home and start working," said Russell. "That throw lit a fire under me. I was like, I know I can do this, I can compete with the best in the world."
That one chance has changed Russell's entire outlook. Not just his drive to get better. His attitude, too. He's looser, enjoying his time on the javelin runway more.
At the Beijing Games, Russell remained relaxed, enjoyed the Opening Ceremonies, mingling with star athletes like LeBron James and Ronaldinho in the athlete's village. When rain hit during the qualifying round, Russell sat around joking and laughing while the rest of the competitors sweated through their nerves.
It was the same thing at the Kansas Relays.
A backward black cap covering his scruffy blonde hair, Russell held court at his alma mater, hamming it up for the hometown crowd. He orchestrated rhythmic clapping from the fans before each of his throws in the preliminary round, then did it for everyone in the finals each time they went down the runway.
At six-foot-seven, Russell is nearly as tall as his javelin and every throw is a moon shot followed by guttural yells. One particular toss included ahhhhhh! at takeoff as fell to the turf on his chest, followed by goooooo! at the apex, then yeeaaahhh! as it hit the turf.
No doubt, this guy's having fun.
"It makes it a lot easier when you're having fun out there and able to relax," he said. "I'm out there to enjoy myself."
Notes: Kansas had two athletes win events at Memorial Stadium. Jordan Scott won the men's pole vault with a jump of 18-0 1/2 in his first Kansas Relays, beating out KU teammate Kirk Cooper by more than two feet. Stephanie Horton set a personal season best with a throw of 50-9 1/2 to win the women's shot put. ... Former KU All American Crystal Manning, runner-up at the 2009 U.S. Indoor Championships, won the women's triple jump with a mark of 44-7 to win by 1.06 metres. ... Pittsburg State's Kiara Jones won the triple jump with a wind-aided leap of 50-0 3/4.
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