The evergreen Russian javelin thrower Sergey Makarov celebrated his 39th birthday on 19 March and the Russian athletics federation website www.rusathletics.com took the opportunity to celebrate the anniversary with an exclusive interview.
Makarov has thrown over 82 metres for each of the last 19 years, including in 2012, and holds the Russian record with the 92.61m he threw in Sheffield, Great Britain, 10 years ago which ranks him third on the world and European all-time rankings.
The 2003 World Championships gold medallist and two-time Olympic medallist talks about his problems at the World Championships last year, still enjoying competing and his fifth Olympics.
The interview below is an edited version. The original article in Russian can be found here.
Q: You have a few grey hairs but you are still in very good physical shape. Dmitry Tarabin (the 2011 European Athletics U23 Championships bronze medallist) said you are a role model to him, his idol. What do you think about comments like this?
A: Dima is in the same event as me so I’m very pleased that colleagues like him understand and appreciate what I have done in the sport. This is very important to me and I cherish these sort of comments. As for the grey hairs; well, they first appeared when I was 16-years-old. Perhaps it’s something hereditary so I’ve been a ‘grandfather’ for a long time but I’m still going strong (laughs).
Q: How was last year for you?
A: Everything was perfect except for the final competition, the World Championships. In Daegu, I felt just fine. I had no aches or pains, there were no excuses. The warm up at the stadium was great but why I could not put everything together in the end, I still do not understand.
When you know that you are in good shape and yet it doesn’t show in the result, then there has to be some weakness. In Daegu, the realization something was wrong hit me after I left the run up after I did not get into a final eight, where I could have continued to fight for a medal. It was a terrible feeling. When I returned from the stadium to the hotel, I did not want to see anybody and that feeling continued for a long time.
Q: Who was to blame for what happened?
A: Me, of course, that was immediately clear. My coach, and everyone else who knew and could see that I was in good shape, were shocked.
Q: Yet you were still among last season’s leaders by distance. Is that important to you?
A: Of course, I believe in myself, I believe that I can throw and compete with the strongest in the world but I’m such a person that confirmation is still required. When I stop to need it, that would mean that it’s time to finish as an international athlete.
Q: So you still get a lot of pleasure from competing?
A: When I’m at least 80 to 90 per cent of being at my very best then it’s still very fulfilling. In my event, there is always very good atmosphere. There are no squabbles. The guys often feel for each other and there is always a good bunch ready to applaud one another.
Q: More than once you’ve had serious injuries that have hindered your career but the past year has gone well in terms of health. What’s the reason?
A: To be honest, I cannot answer that question (laughs). I slightly changed my training and to my great surprise, I had no problems at all; that has not happened for 10 years and maybe even longer. It’s an unusual sensation.
In the javelin, it is very important to be healthy. You can, of course, throw through the pain but if you have, for example, a problem with your hand then that takes 10 metres off your normal level, maybe 20. You can’t fool your body that does not work. You cannot say to yourself: ‘I’m fine, I have no pain, I can throw as well as ever.’ It’s one positive thing has happened this winter, I have not missed any winter training because I’ve had times in the past when I could not train for six months.
Q: This year’s Olympic Games in London will your fifth. What do you feel about that?
A: In Atlanta, my first, I did not understand what was involved in the competition. They were the Olympics and I was just delighted to be there. I became more aware of their importance and how to compete later, and in Sydney I won my first medal. I’ve competed often in London and it’s a very nice city and I like the fact that the Games will be in Europe so there is no serious difference in time zones and long flights required. I’ll have more strength left.
Q: And when will you retire?
A: I’ll keep going for as long as I can compete at an international level. I cannot stop (laughs)! The only things that will finish my career will be either an injury or the fact that I cannot be a strong contender. But I cannot imagine my life without sports so it’s better, perhaps, not to start thinking about it.
The article is written by European Athletics. Direct link: Russian javelin legend Sergey Makarov still slinging the spears