The Olympic Games are the greatest show on earth. Period. Being selected to represent your country is the childhood dream of many athletes competing. There is so much emotion wrapped up in trying to qualify, pre-competition, during the Games proper and then post-games. Each athlete has a story and one of the athletes competing in the Rio games will be the guest speaker at the 2016 Ormiston College Sports Awards Night – Joshua Robinson.
Josh is competing in the men’s javelin event and his story of being selected in the Australian Olympic team makes you shake your head at his persistence. An outstanding cricketer for Villanova College from 1998 to 2002 the Australian junior cricket program was looking to bring along a left-arm quick. The program decided to go with Mitchell Johnson and Josh decided to focus on throwing the spear for which he was showing considerable promise.
Josh made his first Australian team competing at the 2001 World Youth Championships in Hungary, placing fifth with a throw of 66.64m. He then progressed through the ranks and earned selection to compete in the 2002 World Junior Championships, held in Jamaica. The World Juniors are an under 20 event and Josh was only 17 years old at the time and did not progress through to the final throwing 63.97m and finishing 20th overall. So in 2004, Josh was able to compete in a second World Juniors this time held in Italy. He threw a massive 73.76m to place fourth in the world.
The progression from a successful junior to a successful senior athlete is often very difficult. Joshua missed selection in the 2006 Commonwealth Games team, however, was able to rise above the disappointment and threw the spear over 80m for the first time in 2007. This gained Josh selection in the 2007 World Student Games held in Bangkok, Thailand placing fifth (77.86m). This followed with selection in Josh’s first senior team selection and competed in Japan at the 2007 World Athletics Championships placing 17th with a hurl of 78.48m.
An injury-plagued 2008 was not conducive to big throws and Josh did not get near Olympic qualifying. Josh battled back from injury and in 2009 competing in the World Student Games held in Serbia, however, was not completely healthy and threw 70.75m to place 15th.
It was around this time when Josh completed his Engineering degree at the University of Queensland and was looking to establish a career to fund his athletics. When you have even one quiet year and are situated in your mid-20s, focus can wander to up and coming athletes and Josh was getting less support based on recent performances (and injuries). For the next five years Josh could not get his body in optimal condition to throw big. An elbow reconstruction followed by a badly sprained ankle, complications with the elbow, tripping over while throwing giving himself concussion, tendonitis in knees, elbows, groins, shoulders and other places, plagued Josh’s body and mind for five, long years.
A brief comeback saw Josh win the Australian Championships in the 2011/12 season throwing 78.31m, however, this throw did not pass the Olympic Games qualifying standard. Another injury saw yet another setback and Josh missed big parts of the 2012/13 season. How many times a person can comeback from injury and disappointment has to have limits, but Josh toiled on and was rewarded with a massive PB of 82.48m to win the 2013/14 Australian Championships and selection to compete in the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh, Scotland. Josh hurt his knee in the lead up to these championships and his chuck of 79.95m was basically thrown from his heart. Josh finished the 2014 season competing in the 2014 World Cup placing sixth (78.56m).
The injury sustained at the Commonwealth Games persisted and required more rehab than Josh expected and he missed the 2014/15 season and was not in a good position to even attempt to qualify for the 2015 World Championships.
For the past seven years, Josh has received little to no financial or otherwise support to cover his considerable medical bills, gym and coaching fees, equipment, recovery or food. Josh even had to pay his own travel and accommodation costs to compete in national series meets and Australian Championships, which were requirements to be eligible for selection. Josh worked fulltime, or close to fulltime, as an engineer throughout this time and he often started training when only a few people were left at the track doing a warm-down lap or two. Knowing this make the next chapter of Josh’s story all that more heart-warming.
Josh placed second at the 2015/16 National Championships throwing the spear 81.08m, which was not enough to qualify for the Olympic Games. Considering retirement (a lesser person would have already retired at least five or so years earlier...), Josh thought he would just train a little bit longer, pay for an airfare to Perth (he slept on the ground at a mates place) where good winds seem to be just before winter and to have one last crack. Amazingly, Josh got his body into optimal condition, the weather turned out to be perfect, the stars appeared to align and he hit a javelin sweeter than ever before to throw a massive PB of 85.11m! This made Josh the fourth furthest javelin chucker Australia has ever produced. To put his throw into perspective, the 2012 Olympic Games was won with a throw of 84.58m.
When watching the Olympic Games this year, look out for a 31-year-old, left-handed, red-haired Aussie wearing his hat back-to-front who reeks of power in the Men’s Javelin. You will see a bloke who has employed all the resilience strategies a person could muster to strive for a childhood dream of representing his country at the Olympic Games. The men’s javelin qualifying is on 9.30am on Thursday 18 August and the final at 10.55am on Friday 19 August (AEST).
Whatever happens with Josh at these Games, the Olympic Creed shines brightly with him:
“The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.”
Rip into ‘em Josh!
You can send Josh a message of support at the link here.
The annual Ormiston College Sports Night is held on Wednesday 2 November starting at 6.30 pm. All students and families are invited with all MVPs and premiership winning expected to attend as they will be presented with their trophies and pennants respectively.