04 JUL 2012 General News

Braian Toledo – Argentina's man of steel looking for Spanish gold

Braian Toledo at the 2011 South American Championships (Eduardo Biscayart)Braian Toledo at the 2011 South American Championships (Eduardo Biscayart) © Copyright
Pole vaulter Germán Chiaraviglio is the only Argentine athlete to have won a gold medal at the IAAF World Junior Championships but javelin thrower Braian Toledo aims to have the Argentine national anthem ringing out at the event six years after the one and only time it has been played before.

After finishing third at the 2009 World Youth Championships, the following year Toledo took the gold medal at the Youth Olympic Games in Singapore and he has since shown impressive skills with the big boys' 800gm javelin

At the 2011 Pan American Games in the Mexican city of Guadalajara last October, he finished third against senior opposition, throwing a South American junior record of 79.53m, and he extended that standard to 79.73m on home soil in Buenos Aires on May 3.

Toledo is unbeaten, at the time of writing, in all eight of his competitions this year, including a victory against senior opponents at the IberoAmerican Championships in Venezuela on June 9.

After his last win, he has made his way across the Atlantic and has been preparing for his debut appearance in the famous Olympic Stadium Lluís Companys de Montjuïc - where, coincidently, perhaps the footballer and possibly the most famous Argentine sportsman of the current generation Lionel Messi made his debut for Barcelona in 2004 - at the nearby Sant Cugat del Valles high performance training centre, along with the other eight members of the Argentine team that will compete at the World Junior Championships.

80 metres imminent

"I was really pleased with my win at the IberoAmerican Championships but not with the distance (his winning throw was 77.33m). I honestly hoped to throw further. I'm throwing over 77 metres regularly now and once I just put my technique together then a throw of over 80 metres will come," commented Toledo on his current form.

"However, spending some time in Europe before the World Junior Championships and then the Olympics will help me get in the best shape possible for these events."

The luxurious Sant Cugat del Valles facilities provide a sharp contrast to what he is used to at home in the modest Buenos Aires suburb of Marcos Paz.

He spends much of his time throwing across two poorly maintained football pitches, not dissimilar to those where Messi himself developed his skills, alongside an abandoned railway track.

Football dominates the sporting landscape in Argentina but necessity and austerity meant that Toledo was never entirely in its grip and was able to discover where his true talent lay.

Going down the River

"I started with football and saw it was not possible, my mother couldn't afford to pay for the minibus to River (Argentine football club River Plate, who ironically also lost Messi as a youngster) every day. We weren't in a position to spend money that wasn't for our daily food.

"I discovered this sport and saw that I was naturally good at it, with a fast arm. I'm fast, elastic, a jumper, I'm resistant, I'm strong. Thanks to God I have all those little attributes that are so important for us (javelin throwers)," reflected Toledo recently.

"(At first) I thought it was easy but over the years I realised it wasn't, that you have to train and make sacrifices to achieve objectives.

"There are times when you want to say that to be a normal kid would be easier. To carry on with this is a great responsibility and exhausting, but it's what I love to do and that's why I persevere."

Tattoo targets

Inked on the inside of Toledo's left wrist are the Olympic rings and the name Jan Zelezny, his idol, plus the number 98.48 - the distance in metres of the Czech legend's World record which was set in 1996.

It is clear that Toledo has set his long-term sights very high and he has already been selected for the Olympics in London later this summer, where he will be one of the few athletes at the World Junior Championships to compete at both events.

The biggest threat to Toledo's immediate ambitions in Barcelona appear to come from the Trinidad thrower Kershorn Walcott, who leads the 2012 World junior rankings with 80.11m and who has thrown over 77 metres in five competitions this year, a distance no other junior apart from Toledo has reached this year.

The pair are not unfamiliar foes, having met in Guadalajara last year when Walcott finished down in seventh, but his Caribbean rival has also improved dramatically this year and, like Toledo, is unbeaten in 2012.

Either Toledo or Walcott's unbeaten streak will have to come to an end in Barcelona in what could be one of the most enthralling head-to-head contests at this year's IAAF World Junior Championships.

Phil Minshull for the IAAF