London 2012’s slogan is “inspire a generation” and that’s exactly what Kenya’s Julius Yego has set out to do here where he has stormed into new frontiers, becoming the first African to make it to an Olympic men’s javelin final.
And what’s more, his last qualifying throw at the Olympic Stadium on Wednesday night was a new Kenya record – 81 metres and 81 centimetres.
The policemen’s story was always meant to have a fairytale ending as he has battled against all the odds, training without a coach, managing himself and at times being tossed overboard from Kenyan teams to global and continental competitions “because Kenya stood no chance in javelin.”
Drawn in Group ‘B’ and required to record a throw of over 82 metres for automatic qualification to the final from 42 entrants, Yego on Wednesday paid tribute to the media for standing by him in troubled times.
There was no better way of returning the favour that hurling the javelin to a national record distance and go down in history as the first African to reach an Olympic men’s final in this competition.
With only seven throwers automatically in the final with over 82 metres, Yego – who gathered most of his training tips from watching top throwers, like Norway’s pin-up man Andreas Thorkildsen, on YouTube – qualified among the top five below the 82-metre mark.
“I wanted to make it to the final and I knew, when I held the javelin in my hand, that I was not in the final and that it was make-or-break – I wanted to get the 82-metre automatic qualifying distance,” Yego said.
“But I was lucky as I managed 81.81 and then I was in the final… I’m happy because being in the Olympic final is not something easy. I’m now ranked number nine in the world and I feel very nice.
The 23-year-old Eldoret-based athlete, who recently wedded his sweetheart, Sinsi, and who’s fondly referred to by the western media as “Mr YouTube Man,” was born in Cheptonon (Saba River) location of Tinderet District and is attached to the CID department of the Kenya Police.
His place in Saturday’s final, he notes, is consistent with his pre-Games thirst to embrace the London 2012 aptly-coined theme “inspire a generation.”
“When I saw the motto of these championships – inspire a generation – I said this is what I will write in my mind and indeed inspire a new generation of throwers back home.
“I’m very sure now everybody is inspired back home. Everybody was watching and I’m sure they are seeing that if I can make it, anybody can also make it.
“Just like Kipchoge Keino (Kenya’s Olympic legend) did when he started running and then everybody started running, and I’m turning the attention now to the field events – you can make it, we can make it.”
Yego, a bronze medallist at the 2010 Africa Championships in Nairobi (74.51), won the gold medal at last month’s Africa championships in Porto Novo, Benin, with a throw of 76.68 metres.
He followed that up with a national record 81.12m at the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) accredited training centre in Kuortane, Finland, on July 22.