Above: Stuart Farquhar in action at the Australian track and field championships in Sydney. Photo by Alan McDonald, Macspeedfoto.
Stuart Farquhar is on track for fourth straight Olympic appearance following a monster 83.93m effort to secure victory at the Aussie Championships last weekend. Steve Landells chats to the Hamilton thrower to discover just why he was not so surprised by his performance in Sydney.
On the face of it Stuart Farquhar looked destined for disappointment in his quest for a place at a fourth successive Olympics. After a below-par campaign in which he struggled to threaten the 80m mark he travelled out to Sydney for his final “domestic” outing of the season at the Australian Championships with what you might have assumed to be questions marks over his Rio ambitions.
Yet while the Hamilton City Hawks hurler fully accepts his form was far from ideal, buoyed by the confidence of having been in the best shape of his life in the countdown to the 2015 World Championships and with a vast reservoir of experience to draw from he was quietly confident he could achieve 83.00m – the A standard nomination mark for the Rio Olympics.
“I’m not going to deny that I was struggling to find my form and technique, but I also hit some bad conditions as well,” adds Farquhar of his domestic season prior to last weekend.
“Yet I always had faith in my ability. I knew my training levels were good and my coach Debbie (Strange) always felt confident my time would come and that I would find my groove and start producing some bigger throws.”
Last Sunday, Stuart proved it was not misplaced confidence as he unleashed a mighty 83.93m – his longest throw for four years – to seal not only victory but most importantly the standard for Rio.
It was a sweet moments for one of New Zealand’s most consistent international performers of the past decade.
“As soon as I threw it and I saw that my arm speed was quite high and once I also checked the angle of the javelin flight, I knew instantly it was big enough,” adds Farquhar of his 83.93m throw in round three. “It was a great buzz, a great thrill especially after a period when I was struggling. To keep cool and make it happen is good feeling, especially as I am now aged 34.”
The evergreen Kiwi will now plot his route to Brazil. Yet before taking Stuart’s story forward to trace the genesis of his fantastic effort in Australia we need to take a step or two back.
Hindered by Achilles and shoulder problems the affable Kiwi admits to enduring a difficult 2014 campaign in which he finished a disappointing fifth at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. Yet he emerged positively from the experience and after tweaking a number of elements to his training he felt he was on song again after throwing the spear an impressive distance of 82.40m in Chiba just nine days before qualification at the 2015 World Championships in Beijing.
“I was throwing further than ever, I felt like I was technically the best I’d ever been and the power in my arm was at a better than at any point in my career,” he says of this period.
However, his hopes of a positive showing in Beijing were to be unfortunately derailed as he picked up an untimely ankle injury in training which caused a fracture to the bone spur.
Badly compromised in qualification in Beijing his modest best of 78.30m fell well short of a place in the final and he placed 21st overall.
Hugely disappointed to not reveal his true form in Beijing and with a family of three children – Tyler, 9, Mason, 5, and Kirra, 1 – to support he faced some big decisions on his future.
“I had a lot of evaluations to make as to whether I carried on competing,” admits Stuart. “I knew that my career had been tough on my family.”
Yet after a period of reflection he decided he could not walk away from the sport and wonder what he could potentially have achieved in an Olympic year.
“The ‘what if’ question was the biggest motivation,” Stuart insists. “I knew my age had nothing to do with my performance (in Beijing) because training had been as good, if not better than previous years. If I had stopped, I would never know how far I could have gone this year.”
With the loyal support of his wife, Leone, and the backing of his employers at V02 Web Design which have given him the flexibility to train Stuart was fully committed to his Rio quest.
Training alongside New Zealand number two Ben Langton-Burnell at Porritt Stadium has been a huge motivation and once again his form in the training environment has been hugely encouraging, but he had struggled to translate this to the competitive arena.
That was until Sydney last weekend. In the opening round the Kiwi fired a warning shot to his rivals by adding more than 3m to his season’s best with an 81.71m effort only for the Leslie Copeland in round two to surpass that mark by five centimeters and set a Fijian record in the process. Yet Stuart rose to the challenge magnificently in round three to produce his winning effort and secure a memorable win.
Encouraged by his consistency in Sydney –where three times he exceeded 81m – his competitive schedule next takes him on to Japan where he competes in Hiroshima – scene of his lifetime best of 86.31 set in 2012 - on April 29 and Kawasaki on May 8.
Beyond that he plans to return home to focus on training and adds it would “be nice” to squeeze in a couple of Diamond League meetings before competing inside the Joao Havelange Stadium in Rio for what will be – should he secure selection - a fourth successive Olympic experience.
After finishing 25th on his Olympic debut as a 22-year-old in Athens, four years later he improved by five places at the Beijing Games. However, his best Olympic performance was achieved last time out when placing ninth at the London Games.
Stuart is fully aware of the size of the challenge he faces in Rio. With non-traditional javelin countries such as Kenya and Egypt providing the one-two at last year’s World Championships in Beijing and Trinidad & Tobago providing the London Olympic champion, men’s javelin has also never had a wider range of nations competing in the upper echelons of the sport.
Not only that the strength in depth is greater at any time in history as evinced by the fact 30 men in the world last year achieved a distance of 83.00m or more.
So what does Stuart hope to achieve in Brazil?
“My goal in 2012 was to make the final which I did,” he says. “I went on to finish ninth which I achieved at the World Championships in Moscow the next year, so I would like to finish top eight (in Rio) and get the opportunity of three more throws and better placing. The first step is to make top eight then anything is possible.”