Trinidad and Tobago's Keshorn Walcott and Kenyan Julius Yego standing on the podium at the Joao Havelange Olympic Stadium here in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Saturday night, was a rare sight. Only once before, in the 120-year history of the Modern Olympics, had two non-Europeans earned precious metal in a men's javelin competition.
Americans Cy Young and Bill Miller finished one-two at the 1952 Games, in Helsinki, Finland. Sixty-four years later, Walcott threw 85.38 metres to add bronze to his London 2012 gold, and Yego seized silver with an 88.24m effort. German Thomas Rohler landed the spear 90.30m to strike gold.
“The countries are improving outside of Europe,” said Walcott. “It's good to know I'm doing something right. Julius and I are leading the way for our countries to know that you can be a good thrower. You can throw the javelin outside of Europe and throw it far. It's good knowing we are standing firm.”
Yego, who grabbed gold at the 2015 IAAF World Championships, said he takes great pride in being a non-European world-beater in his event.
“What is important is the talent. London 2012 was my first Olympics. I was in the final, and after that I've never looked back, aiming higher to show my potential. I'm a silver medallist tonight and last year's world champion. I'm really excited, and I'm excited for Walcott as well, because traditionally we have not known these countries to be very good in javelin.
“Germany,” Yego continued, “has history in javelin. It was a big night for Thomas. I expected that because he's been having very good throws all season. We all are great javelin throwers, but he's the gold medallist tonight. Thomas is in top shape. For the last few years, he's been throwing well. But this year, he has three throws over 90 metres. When you're in top form, anything can happen. You can throw far.”
With Rohler, Yego and Walcott the only members of the elite “90m club” appearing in Saturday's final, the composition of the podium was hardly surprising. Rohler joined the “club” on June 29, this year, with a world-leading 91.28m hurl.
“Thomas has been the best throughout the year,” said Walcott. “He came in here with the longest throw, so I knew there was a huge expectation for him to go far. He came out and proved he was better today. It's all about coming good on the particular day.”
But while Rohler emerged as the 2016 Olympic champion, Walcott is threatening to become an all-time great in the event. Just 23, the Toco thrower is one of only 11 multiple-Olympic men's javelin medallists, and is joint sixth on that list with the late Viktor Tsybulenko, who captured bronze for the Soviet Union in 1956 and followed up with gold four years later.
Walcott is hoping for a couple more Olympic medals, preferably gold, before he eventually retires from athletics. But even before he bids for further honours on the world's biggest sporting stage, Walcott can already lay claim to being T&T's most successful Olympian, Saturday's bronze pushing the 2012 gold medallist ahead of 1976 men's 100 metres champion Hasely Crawford.