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Athletics: Cool Walcott remains grounded ahead of worlds

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(GlobalPost/GlobalPost)

Keshorn Walcott was arguably the biggest surprise of the London Olympics, the now 20-year-old Trinidad and Tobago native shocking the field to become the youngest-ever gold medallist in the men's javelin.

Walcott threw a national record of 84.58m to win his country's first Olympic athletics medal outside the sprints, at the same time becoming the first non-European since American Cy Young at the 1952 Helsinki Games to top the javelin podium.

It was also only Trinidad and Tobago's second gold medal after Hasely Crawford's victory in the 1976 men's 100m.

But Walcott's form going into London was good, having won the world junior gold in Barcelona the same year, although he insists his gold medal showing in the British capital was a surprise.

"Actually it was," he said ahead of Thursday's Bislett Games, the sixth leg of the 14-meet Diamond League circuit.

"First of all I wasn't expecting that distance to win so that was the biggest surprise. I wasn't expected to win, my main goal was to go in there for the experience and maybe get to the final.

"It felt great to win the Olympics aged 19, at my first Olympic Games, it was a tremendous feeling."

Walcott said that his victory had helped change perceptions of him in his island state which has a rich history of producing world-class sprinters such as Ato Boldon, Richard Thompson and Marc Burns.

"There's been a lot of attention drawn to me back home in the media and press," he said.

"Things have got better in terms of training, the accessibility of everything, they pay more attention to team events, that's one of the good things that has happened after the Olympics."

He is the sole thrower from Trinidad and Tobago to be at international standard, but there are "others coming up", said Walcott, who only took up the javelin in 2009 and is now coached by Cuban Ismael Mastrapa.

Soft-spoken and humble, Walcott kept his goals for the season in good check.

"Hopefully, I'll make it to the world championships. I've been having some problems with injuries, so hopefully I'll make it there healthy and take it step by step."

Javelin is nothing if not a punishing event in track and field, and the immediate objectives of older competitors are more keenly expressed given the limited career offered many throwers.

"Throwing 90 metres, Moscow and the gold medal are my goals this season," was the blunt assessment of Finland veteran Tero Pitkamaki, the 2007 world champion and Beijing Olympic bronze medallist.

The Finn is battling back from injury that saw him throw just 73 metres at last season's Bislett Games, far from his personal best of 91.53m set in 2005.

"It's not good throwing 77m, it's much better throwing 87m. I thought about quitting, I was very disappointed after the Olympics," said Pitamaki, who this season finished second in Doha (82.18m) and won in Shanghai (87.60).

"It feels really great to be back in shape. I feel confident and healthy. Timing is always very difficult, with 50 different movements to make in half a second."

Local favourite Andreas Thorkildsen, a two-time former Olympic champion, is also slowly getting back to his best form after an injury-plagued season.

"It's inspiring to see Tero back in such good shape. I want to beat him when he throws 87 metres, not 73!" he said.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130612/athletics-cool-walcott-remains-grounded-ahead-worlds