The South African contingent here in Ostrava has been one of the most vocal and enthusiastic all week, but until this evening they hadn’t had any medals to celebrate. Javelin thrower Tazmin Brits, however, ensured the fans went home with high spirits.
The 16-year-old pulled out a winning effort of 51.71m in the final round to deny Finland’s long-time leader Carita Hinkka the gold medal. It was a huge sigh of relief for Brits, who had entered the final as the overwhelming favourite. She set a World Youth leading throw of 56.55m earlier in the year and almost matched it with 55.90m in qualifying.
Better with nerves
But come the final, it was all about determination and desire. “It wasn’t my best performance, but I’m very happy and relieved to win gold,” said Brits. “After throwing 55m in qualifying, so I’d have liked to throw over 56m in the final.”
“I was very nervous because I didn’t lead the competition until the very end,” said Brits, who before the final round was sitting in third behind Hinkka and the other Finn, Sini Kiiski. “But I think I perform better when I’m nervous. I also think the warm weather played a part in affecting the throwing distances.”
Continuing the tradition
South Africa have had a fair few fine javelin throwers over the past decade, including former World champion Marius Corbett, 2000 World Junior Champion Gerhardus Pienaar and current World Junior Champion Robert Ousthuizen. But it is only recently that the South African women have started to make an impact.
Sunette Viljoen last year won the Commonwealth Games title in Melbourne, while former World Youth silver medallist and 2004 World Junior Heptathlon champion Justine Robbeson set an African record of 62.80m in 2006.
Brits has competed against the leading senior pair on several occasions this year and even beat Viljoen back in February.
“I like to compete against the senior girls and talk to them,” said Brits, “but they have a very different technique to me.”
Brits took up athletics four years ago, but has pursued interests in other sports, including cricket, golf and hockey. She trains and goes to school with 2005 World Youth champion Noël Meyer, who threw over 80 metres to win in Marrakech.
Both are coached by Willem Geyer. “My family are sporty, but none of them have a specific athletics background,” said Brits.
And when asked how she would celebrate her victory, Brits said: “I’m under age but I would really like a beer – Ostrava’s finest.”
Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF