Latvia’s Zigismunds Sirmais,who recently turned 19 years old, stunned everybody when he threw a world junior javelin record of 84.47m at the 11th European Cup Winter Throwing in the Bulgarian capital Sofia few months ago.
He improved the previous mark of 83.87m, set by the reigning Olympic, World and European champion Andreas Thorkildsen back in 2001, and that achievement led to Sirmais being voted as European Athlete of the Month for March.
The javelin is considered to be technically one of the most difficult track and field disciplines but you seem to have mastered it quickly.
Sirmais: The very first year I threw, I started to feel how to throw properly. You can say that I pretty quickly figured out what and how to do. Later, the shift from a 700gm to 800gm spear posed no difficulty, as you can see by the results.
You’ve only been throwing for three years. How have you managed to make such enormous progress?
I’ve invested in a lot of work, almost every day I come to training and have improved. Im on the fast track already. I have observed how many good throwers have progressed but my results are even better and even more stable. Andreas Thorkildsen, the previous world junior record holder, trained from the age of 16, and got his record at 19, thats a three-year period of development as well.
Were you surprised that you got the record at this early stage of the season?
In principle, no. Training had been going well, even though I had only thrown once before this season.
What do you think about the fact that 84 metres would have got you a medal at two of the last three IAAF World Championships?
Id like to do 84 metres in every competition and it would be cool, but I cant promise that my spear will fly so far with such regularity. However, I know Im throwing at a high level, the Latvian junior record before me was just 76 metres.
Are you a little scared that your progress could stop?
Ive taken into account that in each athlete’s career there are a series of steps. Maybe I will have to go backwards for a while in order to go forward again but I hope that my results will not fall below the 80-metre level. When I become a senior, I hope to improve further and Ill try to show something more then.
How far are you physically capable of throwing right now?
In Sofia, which is where I achieved the world junior record, I just got out there, ran and threw. I do not think it was the peak of what I am able to currently throw. The weather there was cold and I didnt really put everything into it. Of course, I put a lot of my strength into my throws but I was not working at the absolute maximum capacity. I do not know why such a good result came there because back in December I was not sure that I could throw that far.
What are your preferred weather conditions?
To be honest, Im not sure it matters. I have had all of my good results in training when it has been bad weather but I think the javelin will fly when I have still air and sunshine. It all depends on my feelings at the time.
Have you noticed an increased interest in you since the world junior record?
I have certainly become more well-known. Everyone seems to be is interested in me; they write, make interview requests, not only within Latvia but from around the world.
Last year you said that you believed that a javelin throwers peak was between 22-27 years old, yet you are only 18 but are already in the top five Latvian javelin throwers of all time. What are your thoughts on this?
We will see what I do when Im 22 and older. Im still green, Im only 18. Ive also been in only one really big international competition, that was the World Junior Championships last year (where he finished seventh), and have competed very little beyond the Latvian border.
At last years World Junior Championships, you threw a new Latvian junior record of 77.97m in the qualifying competition but only finished seventh in the final. What happened?
Before going to Canada, the only other place I had thrown overseas was in Estonia, which is like going around the corner. At the World Junior Championships, I was in a different continent, with no experience, and maybe also a little worried. It is possible that in Canada I panicked, maybe I need to improve mentally a little before I can really show my best in big competitions.
You are currently in your last year at high school. Have you found it difficult to combine education with serious training?
It used to be difficult, but not anymore. My teachers are trying to help, previously, many probably did not know how seriously I trained and that I was at such a high level. However, now my whole school knows and the headmaster congratulated me on my world junior record.
Have you made a decision about staying in Latvia or going abroad when you finish school?
Ive got an invitation to study at a Latvian university, so I think that I will go there, although I still have not quite decided. Many offers have been made for me to study abroad but I am not ready to leave my homeland and Im not sure that beyond its borders I will find as good a coach as my own, ValentÄ«na Eiduka. Many US universities, including UCLA, have made formal offers but I think I want to stay here.
On your website (www.ZigismundsSirmais.com) your calendar includes the European Athletics U23 Championships. Is this important to you as it comes before the European Athletics Junior Championships?
I now know that I cant take part as I have a 1992 birthday and you have to have been born in 1991 or older but I would like to have also taken part there (in Ostrava, Czech Republic) as I think that I would have been placed highly.
What’s your main goal this season?
My most important goal will be the European Athletics Junior Championships in Tallinn, Estonia, which will be held from 21-24 July. If all goes well then Ill try to be at the World Championships and show something there as well. After that, well see how it goes. Another immediate objective is to improve my own world junior record to, say 85 metres.
Interesting about Zigismunds Sirmais:
Height: 190 cm
Weight: 92 kg
Progression: 54.11 (2008), 65.03 (2009), 82.27 (2010), 84.47 WJR (2011)
Weight records: snatch 90 kg, bench 115 kg, back jerk 120 kg.
Standing throw: 60 m