She already has the 2013 Diamond Race victory sealed, but Germany’s Javelin ace Christina Obergfoll wants to overcome her World Championships demons in Moscow to claim her first major international title.
Obergfoll has been called the eternal bridesmaid of the Javelin at major championships. Ever since her breakthrough in 2005 she has been one of the world’s most consistent throwers, appearing in the top three on the world season lists for each of the past nine years. But the 31-year-old is yet to win an international gold.
At the past four World Championships, she finished second in 2005 and 2007, fifth in 2009 and fourth in 2011. At the Olympics last year, she was again runner-up to add to her bronze from 2008 and she was second at the past two editions of the European Championships.
Many have questioned her mental toughness when the chips are down. But Obergfoll appears surprisingly relaxed about her chances of putting things right in Moscow.
“It would be a dream to come away with gold from Moscow, but I know how strong Maria Abakumowa is, even if she has kind of disappeared since her 69.34m in March,” she said. “Therefore, my aim is to throw far and see what happens. If I throw 68 metres but come second, I will still be satisfied. Moscow is not the only opportunity I have to win gold.”
Best shape of her career
Such a refreshed attitude perhaps comes from Obergfoll knowing that she is in the form of her life after a long period of consistent training, free from any injuries. Her confidence will also come from an almost flawless season so far, which has seen her already win the Diamond Race and European Team Championships.
The only blip came when she finished second to 2010 European champion Linda Stahl at the German Championships with a below-par 61.73m, having rushed back to Germany after competing in Paris the night before.
“There have been other years when I have started well and thrown far,” she said. “But I have trained for months without interruption and that will really help in the coming weeks.”
Her motto has always been to ‘have fun and enjoy’, but she admits that in the past she has sometimes been guilty of losing sight of this.
“When you endure disappointments or are injured, the fun disappears,” she said. “This year I am healthy and winning silver in London last year has really given me added motivation.”
Diamond Race victory assured
Obergfoll has certainly come out with all guns blazing in the 2013 Diamond League, with wins in New York, Eugene, Rome, Paris and London, to ensure she will go home with the prize money, as she did in 2011.
Despite having already won her event, she hopes to win at her remaining two meetings in Stockholm and Zurich to cap off an outstanding 2013 Diamond League campaign.
“It is an amazing feeling to be assured the Diamond League victory before the Worlds,” she said. “The atmosphere in the Olympic Stadium in London last weekend was very special, but my absolute favourite stadium is Zurich.”
But as satisfying as it is to win the Diamond Race, Obergfoll admits that it still plays second fiddle to the major championships.
“The Diamond League is the most high-profile competition series, but the major championships are always more important,” she said. “That said, when you win the Diamond League, you have achieved a lot.”
Return to 70 metres
With Moscow standing firmly as the main event on Obergfoll’s mind, a secondary aim is to again break into 70-metre territory. She first did so at the 2005 World Championships when she memorably took the silver medal, sensationally improving her PB from 64.59m to a European record of 70.03m.
She improved the European record to 70.20m in 2007 in front of a home crowd at the European Cup in Munich. Although Barbora Spotakova’s World record has since eclipsed Obergfoll’s mark at the top of the European all-time lists, it still stands as the German record.
“I don’t know when it will happen that I throw that far again, but all I can say is that I am physically and mentally in shape to do it and I’m going out to attack this mark,” said Obergfoll. “For me to be able to call it a near-perfect season, I would have to throw a good distance in Moscow, whatever that might bring, and also throw a personal best before the end of the year.”
With long-time rival Spotakova, the twice Olympic champion from the Czech Republic, currently out of the sport on a baby break, has Obergfoll given any thoughts to her private life with partner Boris Henry, the 1995 and 2003 World Javelin bronze medallist?
“We want children, but we have said that we will concentrate on the World Championships first and then plan for the future,” she said. “One thing is certain though: We will get married in September!”
Boris Henry, partner and coach
The involvement of Henry as her technical coach has also had a positive effect on Obergfoll, both mentally and physically. Long-term coach Werner Daniels still looks after her sprints, strength and plyometric training, but she wanted new stimuli and she feels Henry has helped create this.
“I worked with Werner for so many years and I had got a kind of routine, where I had heard everything so much before that it kind of went in one ear and out the other. I wanted to try something new.
“Boris moving from Saarbrucken to Offen kind of did that for me. Werner still looks after the overall training plan but Boris is responsible for the technical throwing. At training we are very focused and professional and have a good balance, keeping our private life separate, but this has made me more relaxed.”
And Obergfoll hopes this somewhat more relaxed approach to her sport will help her find her biggest throw when it matters most: the final of the World Championships in Moscow.
“My preparation has been better than ever before,” she said. “I will not throw again before Moscow, but I have two weeks more technical training before we fly out there.”
Whatever happens in Moscow, Obergfoll intends to carry on at least until Rio 2016 in the quest to realise the ultimate prize on offer to any athlete – Olympic gold.
“I have experienced all the highs and lows of being an athlete, so I say to myself, whatever happens now is a bonus!”
Emily Moss for the IAAF