Trinidad and Tobago’s golden boy
Keshorn Walcott was one of the sensations of track and field at London 2012, winning javelin gold at the age of only 19.
A natural talent
Born and brought up in the village of Toco, on Trinidad’s northeastern coast, Keshorn Walcott was more interested in football when, at the age of 15, he threw a javelin for the very first time. Taking up the story, he said: “Back in 2009, my cousin and some other guys used to be throwing the javelin. One evening I went out and attempted it, and that was basically it. The first throw I took was further than what they were throwing, and they were training.”
Deciding to devote himself to the sport, he won the U-17 title at that April’s CARIFTA Games, an annual Caribbean athletics competition, with a throw of 59.30m. He went unbeaten in every age category at the Games through to 2012, his final year as a junior, by which time he was throwing 77.59m. Keshorn is not the only talented athlete in his family either, with older brother Elton excelling as a triple jumper at regional level.
World junior champion
Walcott Jr’s maiden CARIFTA victory got him noticed by Trinidad and Tobago’s Cuban throwing coach Ismael Lopez Mastrapa, who promptly took the youngster under his wing and oversaw what was a meteoric rise. Competing at the Central American and Caribbean Junior Championships in San Salvador in June 2012, Walcott smashed the national record with a throw of 82.83m, and then followed up by taking the world junior title a month later in Barcelona (ESP), beating the field with a throw of 78.64m on his sixth and final attempt.
A star is born
Still only 19, Walcott suddenly found himself making his maiden Olympic Games appearance in London, where he rubbed shoulders with his role model, Norway’s two-time reigning Olympic champion Andreas Thorkildsen. The Trinidadian youngster kept a low profile in the qualifying round, throwing 81.75m to go through in 10th place.
When the final came around three days later, Walcott made sure he got himself noticed, launching the javelin out to 84.58m with his second throw, a personal best that was also good enough for the lead, taking him past Ukraine’s Oleksandr Pyatnytsa on 84.51m and Finland’s Antti Ruuskanen on 84.12m.
Amazingly, he would stay at the top of the leaderboard, becoming the youngest Olympic javelin gold medallist in history, the first person to win track and field Olympic and junior world titles in the same year, and only his country’s second Olympic champion of all time, after Hasely Crawford, the winner of the men’s 100m title at Montreal 1976.
Few had expected him to land the gold, least of all himself. “I always tell myself I’m going to win an Olympic gold medal, but I wasn’t telling myself I was going to win in 2012,” he explained. “When I made the Olympics, my first thing was just for experience. Me and my brother always had a plan that 2016 is going to be our year, so winning the gold in 2012 was a bonus.”
A national hero
Walcott returned home on 13 August, which the government had declared a national holiday, and received an ecstatic welcome from the large crowd that had gathered at Piarco International Airport, just outside the capital of Port of Spain. There were thousands more fans waiting to greet him along the 40-kilometre route between the airport and his home in Toco, and in honour of his stunning achievement a local lighthouse was named after him, as was a Caribbean Airlines aircraft.
Next stop Rio 2016
Walcott had to contend with a serious ankle injury the following year and failed to make the final of the IAAF World Championships in Moscow. Regaining full fitness in 2014, he won silver at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and then beat his personal best with a throw of 85.77m at the IAAF meeting in Zurich late that August. “I am really trying to stay focused,” he said, setting his sights on his next big objective. “My real target was the 2016 Olympics. I am really looking forward to that. Hopefully I can win the gold medal there. That is what I really want.”