Jarrett Chong knows he’s doing well when he doesn’t hurt.
Eight years of throwing a javelin has taken a toll on the 18-year-old Royal City Track Club athlete. Any mistake or variation in the measured movements of cocking his arm, planting his foot and pivoting his upper body and right arm forward to achieve maximum distance for the 2.5-metre-long aluminum implement that weighs 800 grams can result in pain to his elbow or lower back that’s so searing he can’t even sit down.
But when everything goes right, when his motions are smooth and his technique perfect, Chong said it’s gratifying to watch the javelin sail straight and far down the field.
“Sometimes the easiest throws are the best throws,” he said.
Last year, there were a lot of easy throws.
Chong, who attends Riverside secondary school in Port Coquitlam, won the BC provincial high school championship in the event when he threw the javelin 55.47 metres. A few weeks later he whipped a lighter, 700-gram javelin 66.82 metres at the Pacific Invitational meet in Langley to attain the Youth Olympic standard, and in the summer he became the top ranked U-18 javelin thrower in Canada when he was able to top the qualification standard for his age group at a meet in Richmond.
Those achievements have earned Chong recognition as a finalist for high school male athlete of the year at the Sport B.C. Athlete of the Year awards that will be handed out March 13 at the Fairmont Pacific Rim hotel in Vancouver.
Chong didn’t set out to become a javelin thrower when he took up track and field at nine years old. He trained and competed in all the events, but it was the throwing that really caught his fancy, and the javelin he loved most of all.
Chong began focussing on those. But as he grew — or rather, didn’t grow — javelin took more and more of his attention.
“It’s a lot about size,” Chong said of throwing heavy implements like the discus and hammer, or putting the shot, adding he was especially encouraged when he saw an athlete from Taipei who was just an inch taller than his 5’8” stature toss a javelin 96 metres at an international meet.
Chong, who now trains with the Royal City Track and Field Club in New Westminster, as well as his high school team, said throwing a javelin far is about 75-80% technique. That means constant repetition of the motions that go into a throw, from picking up the javelin, to the blocking phase when his foot plants and his arm comes forward, to his release.
To prepare his body for such a regime, Chong does full-body workouts in the gym, as well as gymnastics and swimming.
“It’s all geared towards the technical aspects,” Chong said, adding his inattention to technique a couple of years ago led to his elbow and back injuries that can quickly reassert themselves if his concentration falters.
Chong said being a javelin athlete can be a bit of a solitary existence. He generally trains on his own, under the guidance of Royal City’s Kevin Smith, and there usually isn’t a lot of competitors in his event, especially at local meets.
But that’s also created a spirit of camaraderie and support amongst the javelin throwers.
“You’re competing against each other, but you’re also trying to beat your personal best or pass your goals,” Chong said. “The support and encouragement really boosts me.”
Chong is still undecided about his post-secondary future. He wants to study sport nutrition, but he’s still weighing his options for his athletic ambitions. He said the recognition by Sport BC has been a good motivator to keep his eye on the javelin, as he tries to throw it ever farther down the field.
• Sport BC’s Athlete of the Year awards are presented annually in 18 different categories to athletes, coaches, officials and volunteers. The finalists for each award are reviews by a selection committee, headed by former broadcaster Bernie Pascall, that includes sportswriters, broadcasters and leaders in amateur sport in the province.