Last night I arrived back from my second trip to Finland for the Pihtiputaan keihäskarnevaalit (Pihtiputas Javelin Carnival). The world’s largest javelin training camp, where athletes from all ages train and compete with some of the best coaches and athletes in the world.
Last year everyone was fending off swarms of mosquitoes to no avail, with the number of members in our group rapidly declining throughout the week, having to recover from their bodies reacting badly from so many swollen bites. Fortunately protection from the irritating insects came about frequently, due to the copious amount of water that beat down from the sky for the duration of the trip.
From this experience, this year I came armed with a surplus of mosquito spray and plenty of waterproof clothing to counter the few drawbacks of last years trip. I was ready for the elements when arriving to Pihtipudas, a four-hour coach journey North of Helsinki. However instead of entering a humid war zone, we were greeted with clear blue skies, beautiful sunshine and an almost dry heat without a single mosquito.
Courtesy to the beautifully hot weather Finland so kindly provided, I braved to wear my optimistically packed training shorts and vests, with the hope I wouldn’t get bitten too much. The first few days of the trip I spent lightly throwing, having breaks in between to watch countless competitions of the talented Finnish athletes coast down the runway with such beautiful technique and flight the javelins so effortlessly. As well as support the rest of the group that came over from Great Britain to compete.
Eventually it was my turn to compete, the day before I began to prepare for my long anticipated début competition in Finland, after having to pull out the year before, thanks to my initial tear of my external oblique. Following on from a relaxing morning of mobility, I had lunch and began to mark out and practise my run up for the competition. With the help of Tasha Wilson, one of my fellow training members from Loughborough, providing her knowledge and experience where needed to make sure I had it set up correctly. The day was made even better, with the fortuitous pleasure of sharing the runway with Kelsey Roberts, who had arrived earlier that day from Australia to also prepare for her competition. A former bronze medalist at the commonwealth games in Glasgow and selected to compete at Rio. For the rest of the day I relaxed with my fellow training members, going down to the lake to sit at a jetty and do some fishing, before having an early night to be well rested for the morning.
I woke to find the stretch of superb Finnish weather had finally finished, with the rain hammering down outside I was comforted to know I had come prepared for such weather, walking to breakfast shielded from the elements under my umbrella and raincoat. After breakfast I took refuge in the sports hall for the rest of the morning before my competition to warm up and stay dry.
When it was time I left the sports hall with my fellow competitors from Great Britain, George Davies, silver medalist at the youth commonwealth games and Oliver Corfield, trying to attain the qualification distance for the World Youth Championships one last time before the deadline. The rain had resided and we all began our practice throws. Feeling a lot less nervous having the company of such talent representing Great Britain beside me. I felt confident I was going to have a good competition with the rest of my training group watching to the side, cheering us on. As the competition was set to start, the rain began to fall again, my first two throws were very poorly executed and only had one last chance to redeem myself before the top eight would continue with an additional three throws. After a few pointers from David, my final throw was much better, achieving a distance of 48.44m.
I am still unsure how to feel about how I did at the competition, the conditions were very difficult and it was clear that it had an impact on pretty much everyone’s performances. I am not one to us external factors as excuses for my performance, but feel I may be lacking understanding regarding the effect those conditions had on my performance. It however was a good building block to come back from injury from and glad I managed to compete with an almost trouble free side.
After such a dreamlike encounter the day before, I enjoyed the Senior Men’s A final in the stands sitting just behind Kelsey Roberts. We chatted away, asking about her preparation towards Rio and how she was feeling after her first competition back from injury. It was such an inspirational and educational trip, having the opportunity to speak to such high achieving athletes so comfortably. After the final day of the javelin carnival, we all set off to the lake to enjoy the never-ending light of the Finnish summers, before having to set off home the next morning.
I’m sure everyone can remember the hierarchy of the school bus, the sixth formers sat at the back and as you moved forward on the bus the age began to decline, until you got to the newly arrived year seven students timidly sitting at the front. I can remember in year seven feeling superior and extremely important when I got the opportunity to sit on the back seat of the bus, with the older kids.
But I don’t think that feeling of delight can be compared in the slightest to this bus trip.
Having Kathryn Mitchell and Uwe Hohn casually sit next to me on the back on the bus. In succession a highly respected former Australian Olympian and currently preparing to compete in Rio; and the only athlete to throw a javelin more than 100 meters, with his world record of 104.80m, before the new rules for the event were put in place. It was such an incredible opportunity to openly speak to Kathryn about her journey and how she has overcome her injuries and her plans for the next few weeks prior to competing in Rio.
A phenomenal ending to another brilliant week in Finland, the season officially begins again for me. I just hope I can follow the steps I achieved after going to Finland last year and finish this season on a high.