Australia’s Matthew Denny and Ukraine’s Volodymyr Myslyvchuk were at the traditional pre-event press conference ahead of the 2013 IAAF World Youth Championships, which start on Wednesday, and the two eloquent teenage hammer throwers revealed that they had a lot in common on Tuesday (9).
The pair, who are both medal contenders with the ball and chain although Denny’s best hopes of gold may lie in the Discus, both revealed that their older brothers had played a pivotal part into turning them into serious contenders for honours in the Ukrainian city of Donetsk.
“My brother Jonathan was a good 800m runner but he was a tremendous football (rugby league) player and played for the Brisbane Broncos. Unfortunately he was a very prone to injuries, shattered his wrist when playing for Canberra and so had to retire,” said Denny.
“I originally wanted to be like him and started off with football, and then moved to athletics and now that’s my sport.
“A gold medal at the Olympics is my major goal and I’m putting every bit of effort in to it. The World Youths is a stepping stone to bigger and better things.
Myslyvchuk had a more direct influence from his sibling. “My brother Yevheniy is a hammer thrower. He is five years older than me, and when I was young, around the sixth grade (11 years old) he started coming back with medals, and my parents made a big fuss of him. When he showed them to me, I was green with envy so that’s how I started in athletics.
However, Volodymyr has quickly exceeded the standards set by his brother at the same age as him, who was fourth at the 2011 World University Games; throwing a massive 75.01m with the 5kg Hammer last year, compared to his brother’s more modest 60.84m.
He has also almost matched his brother with the junior 6kg implement, despite his youth and having another two years before he leaves the junior ranks.
Another similarity is both hammer throwers’ singular focus on their own achievements.
“I haven’t really looked at the rankings. I’ve looked at where I’m placed and who my main rivals are but, to be honest, I’m not really thinking about them,” added Denny.
“My main aim has been to go into this competition, see what outcome I can have, do my best and learn from it. I haven’t been following anyone, just doing my own thing; and hopefully doing my own thing will get me a good result at these championships.”
Myslyvchuk knows there is a certain amount of pressure on him, every championships host is looking for a local hero, but he is managing to put it to the back of his mind.
“I came here to improve my personal result. I’m not interested in the other sportsmen and I’m not interested in beating someone or even winning. If I improve, even if it's only by one centimetre, I’ll feel as though I’m a winner.
“This is a great honour for me just to compete for my country, and the strongest man will win," said Myslyvchuk.
“However, I don’t want to predict my result, if I say something then it’s almost certain that I will not reach it, and I think I’ll stop there,” he joked.
If Myslyvchuk does manage to win in Donetsk, he will join a very elite set of previous IAAF World Championships gold medallists.
Only seven athletes have in the past, in the first seven editions of the championships, won in front of their family and friends on home soil but history is just ever-so-slightly on his side as three of these winners have been hammer throwers.
The third boy at the press conference, Kenyan middle-distance runner Robert Biwott, broke from the trend by confessing that despite all the famous runners with his family name – the IAAF has profiles on its website for no less than 32 Kenyans called Biwott – there was no one in his family who had made a name for themselves as an athlete.
“Not my mother, not my father; no one in my family was a runner,” commented the laconic Kenyan, who has decided not to double up at the middle distance events.
Even though Biwott is currently the fastest boy in the world this year over 800m and 1500m, he will only contest the longer event, a distance at which Kenya has won five times in the seven previous editions although they passed over their crown two years ago when Ethiopia’s Teshome Diressa won in Lille.
Phil Minshull for the IAAF