Liz Gleadle chanced into javelin and marvelled at her early, remarkable success. But since she casually picked up the sport in P.E. class, the Kitsilano graduate didnt take her natural talent for granted. She nurtured it.
Last weekend at the Harry Jerome Track Classic at Swangard Stadium in Burnaby, Gleadle set a new Canadian record in the womens javelin, throwing 61.15 metres. She beat her own record by more than a metre and if shed competed at the 2011 track and field championships, that distance would have put her in the worlds top 10.
The mark qualified her for the London Summer Games and next week she aims to secure that position with a top-three finish at the Canadian track and field nationals in Calgary and prove her status as the countrys best woman in the javelin. She also aims to beat the meet record of 54.89m, set five years ago by New Westminsters Krista Woodward.
The meet has meaning for Gleadle, now 23, who debuted on the Canadian scene as a Grade 10 student.
I was just messing around in high school and ended up going to provincials and, in my age group, winning. I didnt know that existed. I ended up making the B.C. team, then I won nationals, said Gleadle Tuesday from Lethbridge, Alta., where she moved last January to train with national team coach Larry Steinke.
With Steinke, Gleadle overhauled her throwing mechanics and is changing the shape of her body. On her nearly six-foot-two frame, shes gained 10 pounds of muscle and four inches around her waist. Her coach designed a program to build strength, and Gleadle says he makes fun of her, calling her weak since she has the capacity to become so much stronger.
She postponed her kinesiology degree and enrolled in fewer courses to focus almost exclusively on training in order to overcome the painful arm and back injuries derived from an imperfect technique that hampered her performance two years in a row at nationals and kept her from the world championships.
Gleadle, who throws with her right hand and plants her left leg into the block before launching the javelin, explained: Id hit my block badly so, basically, instead of landing closed and my body landing sideways to where I wanted to throw and then twisting into my block, I would land with my body facing the field. It would jam my block leg up into my back and up through my hips. It was incredibly painful. Basically every single major throw I would takeevery full-force throwit would put me in so much pain I thought I was going to throw up.
She moved away from her beloved Vancouver, partnered with Steinke, and began as if from scratch. She said she put a Band-Aid on the season.
The sacrifice has been worth it. Her record-breaking moment at Swangard, taken in front of family and friends, some who hadnt ever seen her in competition, was an encouraging sign. Things are coming more and more together, she said.
Her ticket to London is essentially secured but Gleadle wont celebrate it as a sure thing until it is. Her goal for the Games is a personal best, an achievement that would again rewrite the Canadian record books.
For more, including Gleadles philosophy on Twitter (follow her @lgjavelin), go to vancourier.com/sports.
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