Australian athletics has a rising star in newly-crowned world javelin champion Corey Anderson, who silenced the rest of the competition at the 9th World Para-Athletics Championships by unleashing a world record-breaking throw in his first attempt.
The 19-year-old was breaking his own world mark by the way – a 55.14-metre hurl he laid down at the national championships in Sydney last April.
On Saturday night he improved that to 56.28m in the men’s javelin (F38) final in Dubai.
“I feel so confident now. My confidence level has gone from zero to 100. I think I can do a lot of things now. I’m a bit of a showman so I want to keep this feeling going,” Anderson said of his debut on the world stage.
At his maiden world championships having only come under the Paralympic program at Athletics Australia two years ago, Anderson has made the rest of the world sit up and take notice ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics.
And he had to do it under some duress. Two days ago he rolled his left ankle at training. Warming up for his final he rolled his right ankle. He immediately had it iced and strapped.
The injury played a role in Anderson and coach Desmond Davis formulating a plan to let loose as much power as he could on the first of six attempts in case the ankle began to swell up and restrict him.
“That was more nervousness than anything. It was more of ‘I need a big one out so they can chase’. And they did chase but didn’t get me,” Anderson said
“Once I threw that world record, I just eased into the rest of it.”
Davis said he had never met someone with such clear-cut goals in mind.
“Once he latches onto something he’s like a dog sinking his teeth in and staying at it,” Davis said.
“So when he gets out there he focuses pretty well. And he’s got a very good technique – we’re still building on that – and hopefully at Tokyo he peaks again.”
Anderson’s gold moved Australia into seventh on the overall medal table, with a total of three (2 gold, 1 silver) after three days of competition in the nine-day event in Dubai.
It was a case of duelling javelin world record holders, as well as Australian teammates in the javelin final.
Jayden Sawyer broke the world record with a 52.96m in London two years ago at the 8th World Para-Athletics Championships. Then up stepped Anderson at the nationals this year.
Sawyer took a while to find his rhythm on Saturday – his biggest throw was his third (49.42m) but that only placed him fifth. Australia’s third competitor Cam Crombie finished 7th (45.87).
“I just couldn’t really get it going tonight, which is upsetting, but unfortunately that can happen in sport,” Sawyer said.
“The conditions were beautiful, it was a good temperature, but I was just lacking a bit on the runway. I’ll take a short break and then get back into hard work again to fix it up.”
The 2015 Doha world champion in shot put, Todd Hodgetts, also found it hard to hit his straps in his pet event. He has a five-medal strike rate at majors over the past six years, including the 2012 London Paralympic Games gold.
But in the men’s shot put (F20) final, he could manage only 9th with a 14.88m throw – below his season’s best 14.53m.
“I couldn’t quite get a good grip on the shot put,” Hodgetts said. “I’m Okay and I’m feeling great physically. I’m just disappointed.
“But this stuff can happen so I’ll go home and re-set. It’s all good.”
In addition to two field event finals, Australia was represented in three track finals.
Tamsin Colley set a personal best 31.77s in her 200m (T36) morning heat to book herself a spot in her first major final. Three years ago at the Rio Paralympics, the young teenager ran a plus-37 seconds in her heat. She clocked a slower 32.03s in the final to finish 8th.
Colley received a couple of “Go Girl!” messages on social media from Olympic champion Sally Pearson just prior to her race.
The 17-year-old cerebral palsy athlete had nominated Pearson, alongside her mum, as her heroes and role models in her Athletics Australia biography.
Angie Ballard has now pushed her way into two finals in Dubai. On top of 6th in Friday night’s 100m final (T53), she again ran 6th in Saturday’s 400m final (1m:01.86).
Eliza Ault-Connell followed up 5th in her 100m (T54) final, with a 4th in Saturday’s 800m final. She was lying in second place at the bell lap with a couple of competitors drafting behind her. Americans Amanda McGrory and Susannah Scaroni then passed the Australian with 200 metres to go.
“I should have just backed off a bit. But something just told me to keep on going and probably that was the wrong choice. But you know what, you learn,” Ault-Connell said.
“It was hard. It wasn’t what I expected result-wise. Again we’ve got to put that behind us and back-up again tomorrow (1500m heats Sunday). My training and preparation have been great, but tactically I’m not there yet.
“I hope to race a little smarter next time.”
By Michael Angus and Margie McDonald