NAIROBI, Kenya, April 18- While most Kenyan athletes have shot to fame by turning on their blessed legs, Julius Yego remains in a class of his own after using an online platform to catapult to international recognition.
“I realised that the coaching here would never improve me and that is why I turned to YouTube to watch champion Javelin throwers such as record holder Jan Zelezny, Olympics champion Andreas Thorkildsen and Tero Pitkamaki,” the athlete who shattered his own national record on Tuesday explained his unusual move that saw him command headlines at last year’s All Africa Games in Maputo.
There, Yego, who was later to be known in Kenya as the ‘YouTube Man’ won the country’s first ever men Javelin gold with a best throw of 78.34m that was until his first effort on Tuesday, stood as Kenya’s standard.
In fact, his second throw on the day landed well over the 80m mark but officials gave him the red flag after overstepping the marker.
Yego, who upstaged his more renowned distance runners who were contesting for a chance to be included in Athletics Kenya (AK) 10000m squad for the June 2 Pre Fontaine Classic Olympics Trial with his throw had just returned from a two-months stint in Finland, the recognised home of Javelin throwing.
He met Thorkildsen and Pitkamaki while training there for two months having been sent by the federation and the impact of the leaders in his trade was not lost on him.
“When I arrived there, many thought I had come to train to run and they were surprised there was a Javelin thrower in Kenya! They are great guys and they gave me useful tips to improve on my technique,” Yego narrated.
The Kenya Police officer attached to the Criminal Investigation Department first came to view during the Trials for the 2008 World Juniors where despite qualifying for the Bydgoszcz event, AK declined to include him in the team citing lack of proper travel documents.
Yego bounced back by winning his maiden national title during the selection event for the Beijing Olympics and since then, he has been untouchable as he ended the reign of the 2008 African bronze winner, Sammy Keskeny.
Having beaten the Olympics B-Standard of 79.50m, Yego is aching to beat the A-Standard of 82.00m despite the knowledge that it will take something extraordinary for him not be in London this Summer.
“It will be a good thing for me to be in the Olympics. I will never forget the honour of being an Olympian but I’m aiming at throwing the A-Standard.
“My dream is just to appear at the stadium to represent Kenya as the first Javelin thrower from Kenya. It is hard to match what those people do since we are too far behind but competing against them will be enough for me.”
Yego is set to return to Finland for another month before the national Trials in July where he hopes he will give his home crowd a performance to relish by sealing his place for London with yet another national record.
Hailing from a region that is the hub of distance runners in the country, Yego’s decision to embrace a field event with such relish that he turned to the Internet to perfect his skill is simply amazing.
“My brother used to win the Javelin throw in primary school and this made me love the sport. Javelin is in my blood and my engagement in it has not let me down since if I had turned out to be a runner, I would not have been the champion I am today.
“Just like the likes of Pamela Jelimo and David Rudisha, I’m also a record holder and this makes me very happy since I have my place in the country’s history,” he elaborated his dalliance with the field event.
In the long term, Yego hopes that the profile his efforts have given field sport will inspire upcoming athletes to stem the distance running tide.
“The reason why I’m so committed is to make other young athletes to not only think about running because there are opportunities in other events as well,” Yego who represented his nation at the 2010 Africa and Commonwealth Games added.
“We expect him to make the A-Standard by the time the Trials are over but we will consider him for London if no other athlete meets the B-Standard. We are impressed with his performance that shows the benefit of sending him to Finland,” AK general secretary, David Okeyo, added.
“We have friends out there and they came to our aid,” Okeyo quipped when quizzed how Yego made it to the Nordic nation.
Despite his mentored training at the home of Javelin, Yego has still not deserted YouTube as he is still engrossed in viewing throws on his smart phone or Cyber Cafes at every available opportunity.
“Even as I came here, I was watching this (pointing to a video of the world record holder) since you have to constantly see what good technique is. When I arrived in Finland, I had a problem since I realised I was down there.
“But with time, I got used to the demands they place in training and the gym work involved and it can only get better.”
For those aspiring to follow his footsteps, the chisel built athlete has this to say.
“Javelin throwers should be smart people to realise it is not about using your strength but developing your method. It means one must be constantly monitoring the developments being made by the best.”